Monday 22 January 2018

Cuala ace O'Callaghan out to end dream year with Leinster crown

O’ Callaghan “You have to give it your best and there’s a lot required from you.
O’ Callaghan “You have to give it your best and there’s a lot required from you." Photo by Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

It's been a whirlwind year for Con O'Callaghan.

Having shot the lights out for Dublin's U-21 footballers, hitting 3-24 in four games en route to Leinster glory, made his Dublin senior championship debut and collected All-Ireland honours, it seemed like life couldn't get much better for the 20-year-old.

But get better it did as the Cuala attacker showed his array of skills with the small ball when bagging 4-3 in their demolition of Borris-Kilcotton, before adding a further 1-3 against St Mullins to book their final spot against O'Loughlin Gaels.

Dublin's hurling fraternity came alive at the thoughts of him joining older brother Cian in Ger Cunningham's senior set-up but while he hasn't ruled it out in the future, it's unlikely he'd ever abandon Jim Gavin's footballers.

And why would he? While it was "intimidating" marking the likes of Philly McMahon and Jonny Cooper, he quickly found his feet before coming off the bench against Laois in their Leinster SFC opener.

The example of Cormac Costello, who had little game time throughout the summer but turned the All-Ireland final replay with three points off the bench, is a shows what can be achieved if he continues to persist.

"Just a year or two ago, you'd be looking at them on TV with aspirations of playing for them. At the start it might be a little overwhelming but the lads accept you into it and you get on with it," O'Callaghan (left) says.

"You have to give it your best and there's a lot required from you. Obviously if Dublin are winning All-Irelands, it's not going to be easy to get into the team so you have to push yourself in everything you're doing. It's a great privilege.

"Cormac didn't make the match-day panel for one or two games this year and it just shows you. He had a great final so there's definitely opportunities there.

"There's opportunities for young lads if you're going well enough. It's not just like Jim is picking lads because they've done it before; they're doing it every day and are consistent. That's what it takes.

"You know yourself and from other players if you're going well. If you're a forward and scoring points or goals in training, the managers will notice. If you're working hard, they'll notice. Everything we're doing is monitored, they notice it."

He'd love to progress further and get more minutes on the pitch in 2017 but at the minute hurling is at the forefront of his mind and it's "refreshing to just put the football aside for a few weeks or months".

They're back where they wanted to be after final heartbreak 12 months ago and with manager Mattie Kenny "relentless in the pursuit of excellence", the second year UCD commerce student is keen to make amends.

"We felt we let ourselves down so this year we're hoping for, at the very least, an improved performance. Whatever about the outcome," he explains.

"I don't know what went wrong but we expected it to happen when it came down to it. It just slipped away and it's so easy for that to happen in finals.

"Hopefully this year we're going to take our chances when they're given and work hard."

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