Early last year, after winning the Sigerson Cup with UCD, Con O’Callaghan concluded a remarkable run of 25 games for club, county and college in just over 12 months, winning 24 of them.
Having exited the underage ranks and then failed to collect a Dublin SHC title with Cuala last autumn, life inevitably slowed down for the Dublin footballer though only to a brisk pace.
It was the Cuala phenomenon that opened the scoring just 16 seconds into last weekend’s All-Ireland final replay, finishing the day with 0-4 and his fourth All-Ireland senior medal.
By his own admission, he partied hard until Wednesday night, moving from the Blue Light Pub, with its incredible views over Dublin, to Zico’s in the city centre with a dwindling but committed core of ‘seven or eight’ team-mates.
He was back in college yesterday and on Saturday will play for Cuala in the quarter-finals of the Dublin SHC against Kilmacud Crokes. Always on the treadmill.
“There’s challenges there at different times, particularly if things aren’t going well for you or if you feel they’re not going well, it can be pretty challenging,” said O’Callaghan of his demanding personal schedule.
O’Callaghan was in Dublin yesterday to belatedly collect his PwC Player of the Month award for August. He was in the running for the September award too, given his performance last weekend in the win over Kerry, though the Kingdom’s Sean O’Shea scooped that one.
O’Callaghan can probably live without the individual gong after etching his name in history with his Dublin colleagues.
Mind you, he’d have preferred to have completed the five-in-a-row on September 1, as initially planned.
“There were 10 of us going to Berlin to a music festival but that didn’t happen,” revealed O’Callaghan, one of a group of Dublin players that didn’t make it to Germany. “There was (Niall) Scully, Jack (McCaffrey), (Paul) Mannion, Paddy Small, Evan Comerford, Sean Bugler, one or two more. It would have been great craic. But we’ve made up for it since.”
What about rescheduling?
“I can’t really,” shrugged O’Callaghan, who is studying for a Masters degree in accounting. “I’m back to the reality of it now, back to the masters and back to reality.”
Some day, the younger brother of Dublin hurler Cian will get an opportunity to sit back and reflect on these golden years. For now, it’s all about chasing improvement and getting even better.
In O’Callaghan’s case, that’s meant putting on weight and noticeably bulking up, allowing him to break tackles a little easier and pull down high balls from the sky, a feature of his Championship campaign.
At one stage during the summer, a couple of photos circulated of him on social media; one of a youthful Con, the blue jersey draped loosely on his frame, the other of the current Con, filling out every inch of the jersey.
“I think I was only 19 in the first photo, I was a young lad coming into the team,” he said. “I’ve had four years of good work with Bryan Cullen, under his charge. I was a bit heavier during the league, I put on quite a lot of weight during the league and then the Championship comes around and you lose that with more running, playing more matches.”
There is talk Jim Gavin could walk away and that a number of veteran players may retire, possibly even Stephen Cluxton, though O’Callaghan’s mindset is pretty simple. Business as usual.
“That is absolutely Jim’s decision,” said O’Callaghan of Gavin’s position.