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O'Callaghan unfazed by cost of commitment to Cuala cause

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Dublin footballer and Cuala hurler Con O’Callaghan with his AIB Leinster Club Hurler of the Year award in Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Dublin footballer and Cuala hurler Con O’Callaghan with his AIB Leinster Club Hurler of the Year award in Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Dublin footballer and Cuala hurler Con O’Callaghan with his AIB Leinster Club Hurler of the Year award in Croke Park yesterday. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Everything, even success, comes at a price. And in Con O'Callaghan's case, the price was passing up a chance at a scholarship in UCD.

As it stands, Jim Gavin, Dessie Farrell and Mattie Kenny are the three managers all keeping tabs on the Dublin dual star just now.

Nicky English and John Divilly might have been on that list too but there was just too much going on for O'Callaghan to commit to UCD for their upcoming Fitzgibbon and Sigerson campaigns, meaning he effectively turned down a scholarship in Belfield.

"I was told I would get a scholarship but I hadn't been really approached so it made it a little bit easier and I said 'look, before you offer me anything I'm going to take a step back,'" O'Callaghan explained as he was named as one of the AIB Provincial club player award winners.

Understanding

"So it was grand and they were very understanding. I know John and Nicky and they are both sound."

Still, lining out for three teams and three managers is keeping O'Callaghan busy. Cuala have first dibs on their man ahead of their All-Ireland club SHC semi-final clash with Slaughtneil on February 25, but he'll have to keep his eye in with football too.

Dessie Farrell's Dublin U-21s line out against Meath or Westmeath in the Leinster championship the Wednesday after the Slaughtneil game, so O'Callaghan meets Mick Galvin for a kicking session as often as he can.

Given the tight window, he won't have ideal preparation but having scored 3-22 in four 60-minute matches in last year's championship, it's hard to see Farrell going into that game without his star man.

Then there's the Dublin seniors. Once a week too he's in the gym with them, and he might pop into training when time allows. It sounds like a lot to squeeze in but none of his three managers have put undue pressure on O'Callaghan.

"I was ringing them individually. Dessie was involved with Na Fianna in the All-Ireland and Jim was very understanding too," he said. "He said it was the same protocol with Vinnies (footballers) and I'll be doing the same as they do. So it's just keeping on top of the gym work and once the All-Ireland campaign finishes I (go) back to them."

"If I have to miss a session with Cuala to go out and show my face at the seniors or the 21s, Mattie is very understanding as well. Even though the managers aren't talking with each other directly, they all understand that there's a lot of demands."

Even still, O'Callaghan worries he's robbing Peter to pay Paul. Cuala's club run is welcome of course but it means that when he does return to the Dublin set-up, he'll be behind the rest when it comes to trying to force his way into probably the most competitive squad around.

"Sometimes you'd be worried about trying to break through with the Dublin team later on in the year," he said. "But generally I'm okay for it, I'm not thinking about Gaelic the whole time and I can get a bit of down-time.

"My mother goes down to the beach all the time and you can go down surfing there or do something else - play a bit of golf maybe and just forget about Gaelic and hurling."

"You take every day as it comes," continued the commerce student. "There's no point in stressing that you have six trainings or whatever this week. It's just take every day as it comes. I know where I am every week."

Impact

Hurling and the All-Ireland semi-final take precedence for now, and O'Callaghan's impact for Cuala to this point has been profound. His appearance in their county final was his first taste of competitive hurling since the previous year's Leinster decider but it quickly seemed like he had never been away and he established himself as one of the team's main scoring threats.

And while he's happy to lead the Cuala charge for as long as possible, he's not hiding his ambition to break into the Dublin side.

"Definitely, that's a long-term target. I have to just play it by ear," he said. "I'll really focus on the Slaughtneil match.

"Whatever happens after that will happen, but in the long-term I'd love to be able to break through. But it's too far in the future to think about it at the moment; I have to forget football for the moment and focus on the hurling."

Irish Independent