O'Brien sets sights on taking that final step
JUST four weeks ago, Dublin under-21 football captain Kevin O'Brien raised more than a few eyebrows only slightly above their normal stations when he declared from the steps of the stand in Páirc Tailteann after an emphatic Leinster final victory over Louth: "This is just step four of six".
Given that Dublin were facing the Munster champions in the All-Ireland semi-final -- and that Cork and Kerry were due to sort that particular local dispute between them in Tralee later that week -- it represented both a statement of intent and a bold premonition.
As it happened, step five was cleared with room to spare and O'Brien and his Dublin colleagues will attempt to take that final stride in O'Connor Park, Tullamore on Sunday (2.0).
"Coming from Dublin, it's always to do with the All-Ireland" he says refreshingly of Dublin's stated goal at the beginning of the year.
"With all due respect to the Leinster championship, we had bigger goals. Our aim at the start of the year was to win the All-Ireland. And we still have to do that.
"I suppose the hardest thing so far was getting over the first round. It's about getting over the first team and then getting on a roll."
It's worth remember, though, that Dublin and O'Brien possessed the same goals last year when he was corner-back and Jim Gavin's men fell before even breaking stride at the hands of Meath in Navan.
But now, flanked by a new band of fresh-faced and talented first-year under-21s, he leads his team into an All-Ireland final against Roscommon.
"Even in training they're not shy," he notes of the new recruits who have made a significant splash already.
"They all talk up. It probably pushed the older lads on to improve too. Obviously they were unfortunate to lose the All-Ireland minor final but they can put things right on Sunday.
"I've never been involved with any of them before so I was very impressed with them. But I was more impressed by how they talk up in the dressing room. They're not shy and they don't care what age you are. They're there to win an All-Ireland."
The tag of favourites, O'Brien says, is irrelevant, adding: "We can't control what the papers or bookies say. We've been favourites in every game. But it hasn't changed how we approached it.
"Roscommon are very impressive. They have this development from minor to under -21 where they're nearly winning every Connacht championship and they held the Ulster champions to jut four scores so they're very impressive."