Dubs get kick from visit of all-conquering All Blacks

On a week of anniversaries and landmark moments, the best Gaelic footballers in the country traded kick passes with the best rugby players in the world.

For the record, Dublin’s players came out on top in a mini-skills competition, winning 3-2 on a bitterly cold and windswept GAA pitch at the Westmanstown sports complex in Clonsilla.

Afterwards, Cian O’Sullivan was the lucky one chosen to swap jerseys with Richie McCaw, arguably one of the greatest open side flankers in All Black history.

For O’Sullivan, it was a thrilling moment. To put it into context, the Kilmacud Crokes man, by his own admission, wasn’t all that pushed about winning his first All Star award. But he was genuinely ‘giddy’ in the run up to yesterday’s event.

“I got a phone call the other day to say we were doing this event and I was pretty giddy and excited about it since,” said O’Sullivan, twice an All-Ireland winner.

“These are some of the top sportsmen in the world. To get an opportunity to meet them was absolutely fantastic and I’m very grateful to AIG for putting thistogether. It’s a very enjoyable day and we got a chance to swap jerseys and stuff.”

It’s certainly not a bad life for a Dublin footballer.

Previous sponsors Vodafone brought Dublin players to the base of an F1 team that they were also sponsoring.

Still, O’Sullivan insisted it wasn’t all play yesterday and that he, along with county footballers and hurlers such as Bernard Brogan, John McCaffrey, Niall Corcoran and Stephen Cluxton, picked up some pointers.

“The last couple of years, our strength and conditioning coaches are involved with Leinster [rugby], our nutritionist is involved with Leinster so there is a kind of crossover, the rugby set-up does compliment what we’re trying to do in strength andconditioning to a certain degree,”continued O’Sullivan.

“We’re miles behind them obviously, they’re professional sportsmen at it 24/7 but it’s great to be able to learn things and add things to our game.”

The All Blacks will be a distant memory by February when Dublin are back involved in the cut and thrust of National League action. It remains to be seen if the Spring Series goes ahead at Croke Park for a fourth year.

County chairman Andy Kettle admitted a stumbling block is the lack of obvious double-headers involving the county hurlers.

“We had only one double-header last year and it took away from the series,” said Kettle.

“You cannot combine Croke Park with Parnell Park when it comes to selling a series of tickets because of the difference in capacity. If you sell more tickets than the capacity of Parnell Park then you are banjaxed.

“Economics come into it and if we can square the circle we would love to keep it in Croke Park, from the point of view of promotion of the game, getting schools in, which you cannot do in Parnell Park and for the comfort of spectators.

“All in all, it is the better venue. My sincere hope is that we would be able to get our act together and get it into Croke Park.”


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