Sport Gaelic Football

Tuesday 21 August 2018

Con O'Callaghan rise showing no signs of slowing down

Con OCallaghan winner of the Irish Independent Young Sportstar of the Year 2017 award at the star-studded 29th Irish Independent Sportstar Awards hosted in Croke Park Stadium in association with The Croke Park Hotel. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Con OCallaghan winner of the Irish Independent Young Sportstar of the Year 2017 award at the star-studded 29th Irish Independent Sportstar Awards hosted in Croke Park Stadium in association with The Croke Park Hotel. Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Cuala's Con O'Callaghan. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

If the Irish Independent Sportstar of the Year awards are about acknowledging consistent excellence across a calendar year in sport, then it was only fitting that the achievements of Dublin tyro Con O'Callaghan have been recognised by his selection as our Young Sportstar of the Year.

By any metric, the Cuala youngster has enjoyed an extraordinary year, perhaps the most memorable of any GAA player in history.

To give some context to the success he has enjoyed these past 12 months, it is probably best put like this - it's more taxing to count the All-Ireland medals he won in 2017 (three) rather than the championship games he lost.

And don't forget, his achievements have come in two different codes.

The only blot on O'Callaghan's copy book came in the Dublin SFC quarter-final when St Jude's beat Cuala. Otherwise, any team O'Callaghan has been part of has gone all the way in every competition they have been in.

The record books also show that he has been a key cog in each of those three All-Ireland wins.

The first one came in March when he was part of a history-making Cuala side.

They smashed through their glass ceiling to become the first club from Dublin to win an All-Ireland club SHC title when seeing off Clare's Ballyea on St Patrick's Day.

The following month, he was part of the Dessie Farrell-trained side that were too strong for Galway in the last All-Ireland U-21 football competition.

Then in September, he was a key man in Dublin's successful three in-a-row bid. That he forced his way into Jim Gavin's plans despite missing much of their season through club commitments and U-21 duty is testament to his talent.

And he showed why he was included in the Dublin forwards ahead of once-in-a-generation players like Paul Flynn and Bernard Brogan when he tore through the heart of the Mayo defence to grab a crucial goal in September's showpiece.

Goals are part of his make-up. In the Irish Independent last month, Colm Keys pointed out the young man's ability to raise green flags.

"Rewind back to the first Sunday in November 2016 when Cuala played Borris-in-Ossory/Kilcotton in a Leinster club hurling quarter-final and he announced himself with four goals.

"He has played in 23 competitive games (10 with Cuala, five with Dublin U-21s, six with Dublin's seniors and two with Cuala senior footballers) and has scored a stunning 21 goals."

"Eight of the 21 goals have come in the 13 football games he has played (his All-Ireland U-21 semi-final against Donegal in April lasted just three minutes because of a black card so maybe that should be scratched), making it 13 for Cuala in their 10-game stretch either side of St Patrick's Day last.

"Judge that by any standards and it is a phenomenal return for someone who, for five months of the year, in the best of the weather, doesn't hurl competitively at all."

After that article was published, O'Callaghan scored 1-3 in Cuala's Leinster club SHC semi-final win against Wexford champions St Martin's and 1-2 against Offaly's Kilcormac-Killoughey as the Dalkey side retained their provincial title.

Even Cuala's defeat in the group stage of this year's Dublin hurling championship came in his absence.

In the past 12 months he has won a Leinster and All-Ireland club SHC, Leinster and All-Ireland U-21 FC medals, and Leinster and All-Ireland SFC medals.

He also helped Cuala defend their Dublin and Leinster crowns and has remained as influential as last season despite him now being a marked man.

It has been a remarkable run. And with Dublin's footballers leading the betting to make it four in-a-row, and Cuala's hurlers still in the mix to defend their All-Ireland crown, there could be even more success around the corner.

That's for another day. As far as 2017 goes, no one has done it better.

Tommy Lasorda would have a hard time reconciling a record like O'Callaghan's.

Irish Independent

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