Thursday 24 October 2019

'We are not going to win forever' - Con O'Callaghan savouring Dublin's success

Con O'Callaghan savouring Dubs' success because he believes the good times won't always roll

Dublin footballer Con O’Callaghan with his PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month award for August. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Dublin footballer Con O’Callaghan with his PwC GAA/GPA Player of the Month award for August. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

By Wednesday night, there were just a few hardy souls still standing, celebrating Dublin's five-in-a-row.

Con O'Callaghan and maybe half a dozen of his team-mates made it up to the Blue Light pub overlooking Dublin before working their way back into town. That put the tin hat on things.

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O'Callaghan has club hurling championship this weekend when Cuala take on Kilmacud Crokes in a repeat of the 2016 and 2017 county finals. A week later, there's football championship.

This weekend will be his first time picking up a hurl since the last round of the club championship in April, but it's not something that has phased him to date. For the holder of seven All-Ireland medals across different codes and grades, this is what he's used to.

O'Callaghan still carries the glow of victory when speaking at an event that saw him named PwC GAA/GPA Footballer of the Month for August after his display against Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final. He was brilliant that day, scoring two goals off no less a player than Lee Keegan.

Even great talents like O'Callaghan don't get it all their own way. Kerry's Tom O'Sullivan kept him to just a point in the drawn All-Ireland final. O'Callaghan's display that day prompted some deep introspection.

Moments

"I would be (hard on myself). You watch the game back and you watch your own moments, and what you did do and what you didn't do, and you watch that back however many times. You'd be sick of watching it. 

"I had a chat with Bernard Brogan and some of the older lads. He (Brogan) would have a very wise head on him and would see things, little nuggets of wisdom.

Con O’Callaghan of Dublin is pursued by Kerry’s Tom O’Sullivan. Photo: Sportsfile
Con O’Callaghan of Dublin is pursued by Kerry’s Tom O’Sullivan. Photo: Sportsfile

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"I would get the advice of some other lads who were in a similar position, or someone who you might be marking. I could be marking John Small or 'Fitzy' (Mick Fitzsimons) and get their opinions. I would chat with them and try and improve for the next day."

It worked a treat for the replay last Saturday, but it was no accident. Since his early days with Dublin, Brogan has been a big influence.

"He got dropped for the 2016 replay and I just remember his response, it was so positive. Like, other people might have been annoyed that they weren't starting or whatever.

"His response was so positive going out on the pitch, his body language, his enthusiasm, it was so positive after getting that news that he's not starting an All-Ireland final replay. He's been so successful but his attitude is so positive. He'd talk about it, that he's only there to add value to the team, so he'll do it in any way he can."

A series of brilliant displays have pushed O'Callaghan into the Footballer of the Year conversation, but he was also in the news when a pair of photos outlined his physical transformation over the last few seasons.

For the man himself, there was no mystery. With Cuala out of the club championship, Dublin's head of performance, Bryan Cullen, got his teeth into him.

Con O'Callaghan has been named the Man of the Match after lifting the Sam Maguire at Croke Park
Con O'Callaghan has been named the Man of the Match after lifting the Sam Maguire at Croke Park

"I think I was only 19 in the photo. I was a young lad coming up in the team. Four years of good gym work under the belt with Bryan Cullen.

"This year was the first year that I got to play the league because I was with Cuala for the two previous years, so I kind of had a bit more time to work on my game, work on myself which I thought benefited me and yeah, I put on a bit of weight but it wasn't much different to last year."

Dublin will take a back seat for a while now, but will O'Callaghan be walking into a dramatically different dressing-room when they reconvene for the 2020 season?

"I remember when I came into the panel in 2016 and (Jim Gavin) had a photo up of the team in 2011, just before the final. It was during one meeting we had. And he kind of would say it, that the team is never the same one year from the next year.

"The people you play with, the friendships you have, everything naturally changes from one year to the next. I probably will expect to see a little bit of a difference in the dressing-room, particularly with a lot of good lads coming up, the U-20s had a great year this year.

"And some fellas probably feel they are at the age to step back."

Jim Gavin is taking time to consider his next move, but there's a sense that he could be ready to move on.

"That is absolutely his decision. All the players love playing for him. That will be his decision. I don't know. There's been a lot of talk in the media but as far as we are concerned, it's the same as usual. Celebrate in the next couple of months, reconvene come December and figure out a plan."

Con O’Callaghan in action for the Cuala hurlers. Photo: Sportsfile
Con O’Callaghan in action for the Cuala hurlers. Photo: Sportsfile

The wheel keeps turning for O'Callaghan. There's club duty, the small matter of a Masters in Accounting and a taste of the real world with a job in PwC.

As soon as the chance comes along, he'll go hunting for more silverware. When the going is good, O'Callaghan will hoover up what he can.

"We are not going to win forever. We know that, everyone knows that. Nobody is unbeatable. There has been a lot of close encounters. Mayo 2017, Kerry the last day, Tyrone last year in the first half really put us under the cosh. So we are not under any illusions this success will not last forever."

Ω Clare hurlers have suffered a blow for next season with All-Star forward Peter Duggan leaving for Australia in November and planning to spend the next 12 months there.

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