He’s only out of the U21 ranks yet Con O’Callaghan boasts the sort of medals collection you’d expect to see in a GAA museum exhibit.
It’s worth considering the list for a moment: All-Ireland senior (2), All-Ireland U21, Allianz League, All-Ireland club hurling, Dublin SHC (2), the list goes on and on.
Last Friday evening, the forward who scored 12 points in this year’s Leinster football final added his first All-Star to the haul and was also crowned Young Footballer of the Year.
By midnight he was back home in bed, preparing to play for Cuala on Sunday in their first defence of the AIB Leinster club hurling title.
His 1-3 haul, and direct hand in 2-8 overall, helped Cuala to a comfortable win over Dicksboro of Kilkenny and a semi-final clash with Wexford’s St Martin’s on November 19. As if to underline his importance to the team, Cuala manager Mattie Kenny joked that he drove the reigning AIB Leinster club Hurler of the Year home from the All-Stars himself on Friday. O’Callaghan said it wasn’t quite as drastic as that, but not far off.
“Whatever was going to happen on Friday night was going to happen. I still had to get into bed early, by Mattie’s orders,” he said, confirming that he was tucked undercover “before midnight”.
One manager who’d like to have a say in O’Callaghan’s movements is Pat Gilroy, the new Dublin hurling boss, though the most talented hurler to emerge in the capital in years remains committed to football. It means he sets the hurley aside for months on end, yet any lack of sharpness hasn’t been apparent in recent weeks. He tortured the Dicksboro defence and was assigned three markers on the afternoon, including county star Cillian Buckley, but still, in general, did as he pleased.
“It was tough there in Dublin getting back up to the pace,” admitted O’Callaghan. “We weren’t beating teams well, we were really struggling there and we are maybe a bit off where we were last year. That’s the goal, to get up to last year and maybe go further and perform better. Every week helps. I am not hurling all year, because I am with the footballers, so every week definitely helps.”
A successful provincial title defence wouldn’t necessarily be great news for O’Callaghan, not on the football front, at least. He has been sidelined from much of Dublin’s league games in recent seasons, because of his club and U21 commitments and might have fancied a full spring campaign in 2018. There is no sign of Cuala slowing up, though, and it would be no great surprise if they kept their remarkable streak of success going well into the new year.
“There is no guarantee it will ever happen again with the club,” warned O’Callaghan, echoing the comments of manager Kenny who said they need to capitalise on this glory era. “We are going well at the moment, but you can’t take these times for granted. It’s once-in-a-lifetime.”
The club run prevented O’Callaghan from answering Ireland’s call and participating in International Rules training.
“I would have loved to have gone over, but just with the club I wasn’t able to do any training and if I was going to be with the club in Leinster, it’s definitely not doable.”
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