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‘It’s a new era’ – Dotsy O’Callaghan backing Michéal Donoghue to improve Dublin hurling


David 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan, who spent 15 years playing with the Dubs, pictured at an event in 2013

David 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan, who spent 15 years playing with the Dubs, pictured at an event in 2013

David 'Dotsy' O'Callaghan, who spent 15 years playing with the Dubs, pictured at an event in 2013

Close to where Dotsy O’Callaghan grew up, there was a big field. Himself and his pals would spend hours and hours there.

Depending on the day of the week, the field could turn into Croke Park, Dalymount, Lansdowne Road, the Olympic Stadium, Wimbledon, Parnell Park or Wembley Stadium.

The children played everything. Their minds brimming with imagination and dreams. Dotsy loved all sport. But Gaelic games more than any.

“Yes, sport was such a big part of our lives growing up. We played every sport, but I always found myself leaning towards Gaelic games,” he recalls.

He’d forever have the hurl in his hand. He had no shortage of practice partners. His neighbours included the McCanns, the Minahans and the Martins, whose dad, Liam, was the captain of the Dublin team that won the All-Ireland Minor Hurling Championship in 1965.

Dotsy would get the bus to Croke Park. “Just to watch DJ Carey. Such an exciting player. He was unbelievable.”

Conor McCann of local club St Mark’s played for the Dublin hurlers. “We’d go to all his matches. League and championship,” Dotsy said. 

Likewise, the Dublin footballers. “I remember well the heart-breaking defeats in the early 90s. Losing All-Ireland finals to Donegal and Down and the semi-final against Derry, before they finally got over the line against Tyrone in ’95.”


Dotsy O’Callaghan always worked on his skills off both sides

Dotsy O’Callaghan always worked on his skills off both sides

Dotsy O’Callaghan always worked on his skills off both sides

All the while, Dotsy was out in the field. Perfecting his skills. “I’d be working away on my hurling. Focusing on both sides. It really stood to me when I got to senior level.

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This field is required

“I didn’t focus as much on improving my football skills. I’d be stronger on one foot, and that’s something that I quickly realised when I got to senior level in later years,” he added.

These days, Dotsy is the games promotion officer at Good Counsel Liffey Gaels.

“When I’m coaching the kids, I always stress the importance of working hard on being able to use both sides in hurling and camogie, and being able to kick with both feet in football. It’s so important,” he said.

Dotsy’s turn of pace was also valuable. He had the feet of a dancer. “That’s something I also worked on. It was all about evading the tackle. Trying to gain yourself that bit of space. That was such a big part of my game.”

The other week, he met Denis Bastick up at Counsel. The two of them had a chuckle. Remembering an old training game with the Dubs.

“On that particular occasion, I just wasn’t quick enough to avoid Denis as he came crashing in for the tackle. Both of us ended up on the ground. So that brought it home to me even more how quick feet can get you out of bother,” he said.

He wore the Dublin senior jersey for 15 years and played for both the footballers and the hurlers. Dotsy enjoyed his time with both squads.

“It was great to be in with the footballers. It was the professionalism of the group that really had an impact on me. That’s what I mostly took from the experience,” he said.

“That level of professionalism really stood to me. It really opened my eyes, and it especially helped me when I went to the hurlers. We had such special days with the hurlers when we won the National League and the Leinster Championship.”

He’s hoping that Dessie Farrell’s Dubs will be in the mix for gold again, and that Michéal Donoughe’s spell will go well.


Dotsy savours victory over Limerick in 2015

Dotsy savours victory over Limerick in 2015

Dotsy savours victory over Limerick in 2015

“It would be nice to see the hurlers make a breakthrough under the new management. It’s not easy. It’s a highly competitive environment now,” he said.

“You see what the top hurling counties are doing, and the standard of player they have coming through.

“But Michéal is giving players a chance. He’s building a squad. It’s a new era. They are striving hard. They are not a million miles away.

“There’s plenty of experience there too. And those lads will be driven to achieve success. Hopefully now they can kick on and continue to make progress.”

Dotsy favours the split season. “I like the matches coming thick and fast. I think the spectators like that too, and it’s better for the players.

“It allows them to play back with the clubs and gives them some free time to spend with their families and friends. Down time is so important for players.

“It was badly needed. It’s crucial for player welfare. Maybe there could be a tweak needed here and there, but, overall, the split season is working out fine.”

He’s keeping fit. He plays five-a-side football and padel tennis. “I really enjoy padel tennis. We play doubles. It’s so fast. It’s so good for hand to eye coordination. Hurlers would like it.”

With the grounds beginning to harden, he’s hoping to pull on the jersey of his beloved St Mark’s once more.

“I’ve had a few injuries, but so far so good. I like to keep in shape. I’ll go back and do a bit of training with Mark’s and see how I am then. It would be lovely to go back and play with them,” he said.

“We had fantastic times. We’d a great run coming up through the juvenile ranks, and then we did well at adult level. It was a marvellous era.

“I look back on those times so fondly. I played with some great players. And that was an immense help to me when I went on to play for the Dubs.”

Now, he’s relishing his role down by the Grand Canal with Good Counsel Liffey Gaels.

“The merger has worked out so well. People are putting in tremendous work here. We have excellent facilities between our two venues. There’s new people moving into the area all the time, so things are looking promising,” he said.

The kids have the perfect tutor. They’d all like to be the player he was to become. Nimble, swift, beautifully balanced, soft wrists, fast feet.

Since childhood, his name Dotsy grew out of the Irish Daithí. But these days, some people call him David. “I’m getting worried,” he jokes.

For so many, it will always be Dotsy O’Callaghan. The one and only.

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