Con O’Callaghan 'Everyone will be trying to stop you — that’s the reality of it’

Con O’Callaghan knows what he’s missing. That doesn’t soften the blow but spreading himself thin or leaving Jim Gavin is not on the agenda.

For four years, he enjoyed the management of Mattie Kenny, which saw Cuala become the most dominant hurling club in the land.

Now that the Galway man is in charge of the Dublin senior team, he’s expecting more success.

Con O’Callaghan with Lucy Silke from Lucan, left, and Sophie Lawlor from Templeogue, during the Dublin squad’s visit to Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Crumlin after this year’s All-Ireland SFC final win over Tyrone at Croke Park. Picture: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

“I think he’ll do really well. Pat Gilroy did a really good job, and he had the players’ and the county’s backing but obviously, he had to take a step back with work commitments.

“But Mattie has been an inter-county manager for our club for the last couple of years. He’s had that set-up, the professional set-up, with us in the last couple of years. And I think with the backroom team he’ll bring in, and with the support of the Dublin County Board, and I know all the players are going to give a huge commitment… they could be really successful.

“There’s obviously no guaranteed success, it’s still a massive challenge with the new format for the hurlers to compete, but he’ll definitely get a good system in place there.

“In fairness, the culture doesn’t need changing, Gilroy did a really good job with that, but Mattie will set up new systems. He knows the players really well from managing against them, so I think he’ll do a really good job.”

Kenny hasn’t approached O’Callaghan and the player doesn’t expect him to.

He’s relieved too as Kenny, he says, is a man “who doesn’t take no for an answer”.

Kenny and his selector, former Galway defender Greg Kennedy, joined the Cuala players on a break to Portugal last month.

“I don’t think so this year anyway,” O’Callaghan said of him hurling with Dublin. “We actually had a holiday with Cuala over in Portugal, with the hurlers, and Mattie and Greg came over with us. So, we just had a really good time.

“We’ve been talking about going away for nearly three or four years, so it was nice to actually go away but I had no conversation (about hurling for the county). I think Mattie is letting me off and I don’t think he’s going to approach me for the year.”

O’Callaghan continued: “I haven’t considered it. I’m really enjoying football and particularly with club so successful, it’s not that I’d no desire to play with the hurlers, but I’d had some success in hurling. In the next couple of years I can’t say I won’t but I see myself playing football — hurling with the club but football for Dublin.

“My Da played football and was a big influence on me. He wouldn’t have told me what to do and Cian (O’Callaghan’s brother) obviously went with the hurling but I always preferred football and was a better footballer under-age.

“Obviously, the success of the Dublin footballers was something that inspired you and something you wanted to be part of as well.”

The appointment of Willie Maher to succeed Kenny shows Cuala don’t intend on easing up anytime soon but pursuits under him will be put on O’Callaghan’s backburner for the time being as he is enjoying his first winter’s break since coming out of minor.

The time out suits ahead of a potential five-in-a-row winning season as much as the 22-year-old is looking at 2019 as a singular entity.

“Everyone outside of the camp is going to make it out to be massive — five in a row — but we haven’t even met up yet and I’m sure when we do, we’ll chat over everything but it won’t be something we’ll focus on.

“Everyone knows that we focus on the process and if you start thinking about these glory titles you’re probably not in the right head-space to be playing matches. Our focus is league, which we always take seriously, and then Championship. It’s not going to be about how many titles we’ve won.”

When Gavin brings them together he’ll remind them of the need to concentrate on the here and now but O’Callaghan stresses the self-reliance of the players. Their attitude towards social media highlights that.

“There’s a leadership group and I suppose nearly everyone is a leader on the team. A lot of it is player-driven so if there are lads out of line they’ll probably be called out by players rather than by management. Jim will say what he needs to say but it’s players in the end.

“Everyone will be trying to stop you — that’s the reality of it. We try to keep it within ourselves and stay off social media. We try to stay together as a group, particularly when the games are getting big and there’s lots of people talking from outside.”


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