Eight teams will be broken into two groups of four at the All-Ireland quarter-final stage this summer and scheduled for one home, one away, and one Croke Park game each.
Croke Park is Dublin’s home ground for the championship, so the three-in-a-row All-Ireland winners will have the immediate advantage of playing two of their three Super 8 games there.
GAA director general Tom Ryan noted yesterday that the fixtures haven’t been set in stone yet.
Given that Dublin’s actual home, Parnell Park, has a capacity of around 9,000, the game definitely won’t be played there and the GAA may be influenced too by the likelihood of a huge pay day at Croke Park.
The situation has naturally drawn claims of an unfair advantage for a Dublin side that recently regained the National League title and will bid for history this summer.
O’Sullivan, speaking at the launch of the #AllIrelandSmiles campaign for 2018, said the players have no problem playing their Super 8 games wherever the GAA chooses, presuming they actually qualify.
“Players get those questions put to us but players aren’t involved in an administrative capacity at all,” O’Sullivan said of the Super 8s dilemma. “We’ll play where we’re put down to play. We certainly have no issues playing anywhere really.
“I think we quite enjoy actually playing games in different venues and in different stadiums. There’s a far better atmosphere in a packed out 30,000 stadium than there is having 30,000 people in what can seem an empty Croke Park.
“I know we played Laois in Kilkenny in the opening round of the championship two years ago and the atmosphere down there for an opening round game was incredible.
“I don’t know if those (Super 8s) fixtures have been nailed down yet but from a player perspective we certainly have no issues with playing wherever we’re asked to play.”
O’Sullivan, currently recovering from shoulder surgery, agreed that Parnell Park isn’t a runner for a championship game involving Dublin.
“That probably doesn’t make sense,” he said. “I don’t know, what are they saying, that it’s a home venue, an away venue, and a neutral (sic) venue? It will be interesting to see how that pans out. But certainly from a player perspective, we’d have no qualms playing any of our games anywhere really, to be honest with you.”
Dublin will begin their championship campaign outside of Croke Park late next month when they play the winners of Offaly-Wicklow. It’s anticipated that Tullamore will host a Dublin-Offaly clash.
O’Sullivan said his focus at the moment is simply on regaining full fitness in time for the summer games having undergone shoulder surgery.
The Kilmacud Crokes man suffered a dislocated shoulder after what he termed an “innocuous collision” in the National League win over Kerry at Croke Park in early March.
“It was a very painful experience, it was agony,” he said. “Just when the shoulder popped out, that moment. Then when the physios came on they were able to give it a slight, very gentle push in the right direction and it slipped back in. The sense of relief once it pops back in is great.”
O’Sullivan said he hopes to play in the Super 8s games but admitted the Offaly or Wicklow tie could come too quickly.
“It could possibly be a bit too soon but I’ll just see how it goes over the next couple of weeks,” he said.
“There’s a chance that it could be OK by then.
“You kind of get told a few different return-to-play times, from four months back to kind of three months. So I don’t want to put any definitive timeline on it.
“I’ll just throw the kitchen sink at it in terms of rehab and see where I get to. I’m just rehabbing at the moment and I’ll be going back with the county after the club games are finished. At the beginning of May, I’ll see where I’m at then.”
Dublin have been hit hard by injuries to prominent players with O’Sullivan joining Bernard Brogan and Jack McCaffrey (both cruciate) in the sick bay while Paul Flynn had back surgery.
“There’s not been many soft tissue injuries which you’d normally associate with heavy training loads,” said O’Sullivan. “They’re just unfortunate collisions, or twists and turns that are causing injuries. The two lads got cruciate tears which is just the luck of the draw with them it seems. My one was just wear and tear coupled with an unfortunate collision.”
O’Sullivan remains a central figure for Dublin as one of just three players — James McCarthy and Stephen Cluxton the others — to have started all five of their All-Ireland final wins since 2011.
“I guess that’s pretty cool, I’m in good company there, definitely,” said O’Sullivan. “That probably is something to be proud of. I guess I’ve just been very lucky that in the latter parts of the championship, I’ve been able to keep a clean bill of health which hasn’t been the case for a lot of the other players who have been involved with the team.”