Eyes on the prize for Cian O'Sullivan ahead of Dublin and Westmeath's Leinster football final

A Friday morning around the water cooler in the PwC offices can be a dangerous place for Cian O’Sullivan to find himself.
Eyes on the prize for Cian O'Sullivan ahead of Dublin and Westmeath's Leinster football final

Two days out from a Leinster football final with Dublin, he’ll probably just make sure he’s got enough water bottles at his desk to take care of hydration.

If he doesn’t, and he gets caught with colleagues in a football conversation about Dublin’s Leinster or All-Ireland chances, the stylish centre-back has got a strategy for that too.

“You’re at the water cooler and people chatting to you, the easy approach I take is to try and change the subject right away, chat about something else, Brexit, or ‘Did you see Iceland beating England?’

It’s a challenge all Dublin footballers face, dealing with the incessant conversation that surrounds them and the hype, particularly when they’re going as well as they currently are.

“Yeah, it is (difficult),” continued the 28-year-old. “The difficult thing is not listening to friends and family. They’ll talk to you and they’ll say things to you about winning at the weekend. And you try and shut that out. But the biggest hurdle is being conscious of that, that these people are in a different space to us at the moment, and that we know the reality of what we need to do and that’s what matters.

“It doesn’t matter what the newspapers are saying, what the pundits are saying or what the bookies are saying. We know what we want to do and what we want to achieve from this game, and it’s important to stay in that mindset, not allowing yourself to get caught up in the media and what everyone else is saying. It is difficult, shutting away from newspapers, from social media and all that stuff.”

Perhaps a little of it has been seeping in so far this summer, despite the players’ efforts. Dublin have beaten Laois and Meath easily but at times they’ve looked like they’ve been going through to the motions or, as Pat Spillane put it, of ‘fluting around’ and waiting for the business end of the season to arrive.

Bookmakers have installed them as 1/100 favourites to beat Westmeath on Sunday, placing a 16-point handicap on their backs, as they seek a sixth consecutive provincial title. None of which is very helpful to O’Sullivan and his colleagues.

“You’d think information would get in at some stage, you’d think a few would read the papers and then pass on the info,” said O’Sullivan, a three-time All-Ireland medallist. There are some guys who can deal with it easily and there are some guys who can’t. There are some who can read the paper and subsequently throw out all that stuff and if they’re comfortable doing that, so be it.

“But there are other guys who recognise that subconsciously, that stuff will feed in. I suppose everyone is different and it’s just about recognising what works and what doesn’t work.”

One of the big talking points about the Dubs right now is their defence. They’ve been labelled vulnerable in the absence of Rory O’Carroll and Jack McCaffrey, particularly under the high ball, and Westmeath will probably try to get some joy from that area on Sunday.

Jack McCaffrey (left)
Jack McCaffrey (left)

O’Sullivan reckons there’s too much made of that apparent weakness though.

“I do think so,” he said. “It has been a bit exaggerated. “It’s a tactic any team can employ, or we can employ ourselves. Dropping a ball into the full-forward line, that box in front of the keeper, is always going to be a dangerous ball, whether there is the perceived good full-back there or not. It’s nothing to do with Rory being here or not.”

O’Sullivan’s continued development and leadership at the point of Dublin’s defence continues to be a trump card for them. It’s an intriguing thought that, a little like Lar Corbett deciding to mark Tommy Walsh in the 2012 hurling championship, teams could soon decider to man mark defender O’Sullivan to curb his influence.

“It sounds a bit weird, marking a defender,” said O’Sullivan. “I don’t know, it’s not something I’ve considered but it would be interesting to see how that would pan out in a game scenario.”

  • Cian O’Sullivan was speaking at the launch of the Sure campaign, ‘Life’s a Game, #MakeYourMove’ to mark the announcement they will become the GAA’s first statistics partner.

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