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'King con' leaves a big mark

Cuala ace announces his arrival with a clinical exhibition in Leinster final


Rival managers Cian O’Neill and Jim Gavin shake hands after yesterday’s Croke Park clash. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Rival managers Cian O’Neill and Jim Gavin shake hands after yesterday’s Croke Park clash. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Rival managers Cian O’Neill and Jim Gavin shake hands after yesterday’s Croke Park clash. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile

It's been quite the year for Con O'Callaghan.

He has, since his senior inter-county debut against Laois in Nowlan Park in June of last year, acquired a haul of medals most might spread out over the span of a career. Yesterday was his second Leinster senior football title.

He has a senior All-Ireland too, albeit as a non-participating member of last year's squad.

Briefly, he inherited the tag of the best hurler not currently playing inter-county hurling during Cuala's Dublin, Leinster and All-Ireland club campaign, during which he also squeezed in provincial and national honours with the Dublin under-21 footballers.

Yesterday was his big arrival, though.

Twelve points, six from play, from 13 shots at goal.

A bit like Ciarán Kilkenny, O'Callaghan's reputation was established as a powerful and prolific inside forward and just like Kilkenny, he seems to have been successful remoulded into a ball-winning yet equally prolific half-forward.

Mostly, he played centre-forward yesterday and after inheriting Dublin's freetaking duties from the black-carded Dean Rock, scored all six from his hands.

He broke hard at the 'D' and gave the Dublin ball-carriers an obvious option and his decision-making was impeccable, albeit he sided almost always with the direct option.

And more or less, O'Callaghan wrapped up this year's Young Footballer of the Year award, having been installed at 1/14 by bookies after a mighty performance.

Naturally though, Jim Gavin didn't deem it necessary to linger too long on his praise of Dublin's latest attacking prodigy.

"First thing I would say is he's part of a team and he played his part today," was his manager's initial response when asked to appraise O'Callaghan's performance.

"He comes from a really solid background.

"His club Cuala have done tremendous work in that part of the county for Gaelic games in the last number of years and Con has been fortunate to be surrounded by some great coaches and great family as well.

"Within Dublin GAA he's been developed by the development squads and by under-18 and under-21 coaches and managers, so that's been a big influence on him.

"He played his part. That's probably what we see in training as well."


Gavin was equally timid on the subject of Bernard Brogan's performance.

Like O'Callaghan, he benefited from Rock's early exit and came on to kick five points, won oodles of ball off Ollie Lyons, didn't put a foot wrong and finished with a hair barely out of place.

For a player who has gone at the task of winning back his starting place with noted and admirable enthusiasm, it was the perfect display ahead of Dublin's All-Ireland quarter-final on August 5 against Down, Armagh or Monaghan. "The way we look at it is, whatever part a player is asked to play, whether that's finishing a game or starting the game, to me and my management team and to the players themselves it's pretty irrelevant.

"They do understand that every player wants to get game-time.

"That's why they train so hard, to be on the pitch representing the jersey.

"There are five players there today who didn't get game-time and they'll be disappointed as well.

"I know full well that when we go back next week that they'll be pushing hard just to get game-time and push this squad on.

"But from Bernard's perspective, yeah he did very well today. Again, that's what we're seeing in training. He played his part very well."

Not that everything about Dublin yesterday was perfect.The 1-17 they conceded was the same tally Kerry scored against them (2-14) in last year's All-Ireland semi-final, the highest tally they've shipped since Donegal blitzed them for 3-14 in the last time Dublin were beaten in the Championship.


"It's something that we'll have to look at," Gavin admitted.

"But to balance that is what we scored at the other end as well.

"We'll set ourselves up depending on whatever way the opposition set themselves up.

"Some teams that we'll play won't be as expansive and expressive as Kildare," he pointed out.

"We'll need to adjust our tactics and it's a great challenge for us if they do that and you get a low-scoring game at both ends."

The upshot of it all was Dublin's seventh Leinster SFC title in-a-row, a record which reflects both their excellence in that time-span and a general and widespread malaise elsewhere in the province.

In this, Gavin not only wanted to deflect praise, but divert it elsehwere.

"First, on the historic nature of it, I think when the guys look back on their careers and probably for Pat Gilroy, who came before me, and his group of players that are no longer with us, they'll take some satisfaction today," he suggested.

"But for the current team it's about being present in 2017 and provincial titles mean a lot to us.

"We'll certainly celebrate it tonight with our family and friends, that's for sure.

"And then we'll move on to the next challenge ahead," concluded Gavin.