He turned down the offer of a scholarship so that he could fully concentrate on Cuala’s All-Ireland club SHC semi-final against Slaughtneil on February 25.
Four days later, he intends lining out for the Dublin U21 footballers’ in their Leinster quarter-final against Meath or Westmeath.
“I’ve taken a step back from UCD completely. I had to prioritise what I was going to do and I couldn’t have committed to the U21s as well so I decided Cuala would be my focus and, to be honest, Jim Gavin agreed with me and so did [Dublin U21 football manager] Dessie Farrell that it’s not often you get these opportunities with the club so you’ve got to take it with both hands.
“There was a good bit of drama with the hurlers and the scholarships. 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’, so it was grand and they were very understanding and I know John [Divilly] and Nicky [English, UCD managers] and they are both sound.”
Cuala’s decision to accede to Slaughtneil’s request to move the game could cause further difficulty for UCD should they reach the Fitzgibbon Cup weekend, which also takes place at the end of February.
Three further Cuala players, O’Callaghan’s older brother Cian, Colm Cronin and Jake Malone, are all eligible for UCD.
O’Callaghan is also in his last year as an U21 just as 2017 marks the final year of the U21 football championship as it changes to U20 next year when it will concurrently with the senior season. O’Callaghan wasn’t in favour of the decision.
“To be honest I think it’s a bit of a shame. I only played my first year of U21s last year, I was injured the year before but it’s an incredibly enjoyable competition.
"The fact that it’s straight knockout obviously makes it really exciting, but I do think it’s a bit of a shame that a lot of those lads won’t get to play 21s, the [born in] ’97s won’t get to play 21s.
“It’s moved to the summer, isn’t it? I think that’s also a bit of a shame that lads won’t get a chance to go away either because a lot of young lads like going away on J1s or whatever. I’d be disappointed if I was in their situation.”