In that year’s All-Ireland minor football decider, O’Sullivan’s mesmeric and swift runs caused havoc for the Tyrone backline, and they resorted to halting his progress by repeated fouls. Kerry ended up losing the game by three points, but O’Sullivan’s performance had highlighted his potential.
Five years on and O’Sullivan is still striving to establish himself on the senior stage. He’s been in and out of the Kerry starting line-up in the interim, and gained a ‘supersub’ tag which has become more of annoyance than a badge of honour. But tomorrow he’s in from the start and is set to captain the team from left corner-forward.
“I’m no different to anyone else. I want to be out there every minute of every game. I got this ‘supersub’ nickname and I’ve been trying to get rid of it. But I’m just very lucky to be part of this Kerry setup. I’m glad to be part of this successful era and if I can help them in any way from the start or from the bench, it’d be great.”
The mantle of captaincy is a welcome boost but O’Sullivan is pragmatic enough to tip his hat towards those who ensured he received the honour. Coming from Glenbeigh-Glencar, he’s grateful to Mid Kerry’s county success last year for enabling him to gain the armband.
“It’s great being from small club like Glenbeigh and being able to play in the Kerry championship. I owe a lot of thanks to Mid Kerry as they put in a lot of work over the last few years. I was fortunate enough to get a county medal last year and it was brilliant. When I came into Mid Kerry, things weren’t going well but fair play to James Sheehan, a Laune Rangers man, he came in and steadied the whole thing. I owe them a lot.”
Accompanying O’Sullivan on that Mid Kerry outfit was Keel forward Gary Sayers. Last March, O’Sullivan watched on as Sayers featured in a Cork IT side that swept to Sigerson Cup glory. Having spent two years in the college, O’Sullivan took huge pleasure from the triumph of his alma mater.
“In my final year there, I broke my hand with Kerry and missed the Sigerson campaign. That was a disappointment because I always enjoyed the Sigerson, playing with the Cork senior lads like (Daniel) Goulding, (Paul) Kerrigan and Ray Carey.”
O’Sullivan is looking forward to pitting himself against those former teammates tomorrow in Croke Park. His role within the Kerry setup has taken on an added dimension since the Meath game when he was entrusted with the penalty responsibilities. Inside the opening few minutes O’Sullivan was handed an opportunity after Colm Cooper was felled by Antony Moyles. But he found himself hindered in the run-up by the slippery conditions.
“Before the game we just decided if we got one, I’d take a crack at it. I was fortunate enough that it went in. The conditions didn’t help me. But I knew if I hit it in low and got a good connection, it’d go in with the skid off the ground. I was delighted to score, but wasn’t thinking that I’d get one, especially that early.
“I tend to slip at the best of times and did it again there for that kick. I’ve never played in Croke Park when it was that slippery. The pitch was grand but the grass was too long. The year before we played Galway in torrential rain and the pitch held up. That was one of the best games of the championship. But you can’t say anything too bad about Croke Park. They put on a concert a few weeks back and it was impossible to get it upto condition in that short space of time.”
- Man of the Match betting: 28/1