Family connections colour the GAA weave.
Although Cork’s U21s lost a Munster quarter-final with Limerick on Tuesday evening, supporters were pleased to see Pa O’Callaghan make a return.
The Ballyhea clubman hurled a fine first half, firing three terrific points from play. A fêted Cork Minor between 2011 and 2013, O’Callaghan was making his first appearance at U21.
Cork and Dublin’s Senior qualifier tie this evening in Páirc Uí Rinn offers another thread in that GAA weave. One Dublin forward (missing through injury tonight) has strong Ballyhea connections, in that David ‘Dotsy’ O’Callaghan and Pat O’Callaghan, Pa’s father, are first cousins.
The backstory is a familiar Irish tale. Brothers Jackie and Paddy O’Callaghan hurled Minor for Ballyhea before emigrating to England in the early 1950s. Molly O’Callaghan, a sister, remained at home and married Tim Griffin, who captained Ballyhea to Junior success in 1955.
While Jackie, grandfather of Pa, returned to North Cork, Paddy took a different path. He travelled to Toronto with his wife, Mary (née Meere), a Dubliner. Another O’Callaghan brother, Danny, accompanied them.
Paddy and Mary spent 15 years in Canada, with Michael, Patricia and Niamh born there. The couple did return to Ireland and eventually settled in Dublin, where David O’Callaghan was born. This swerve led to Dotsy, like his siblings, playing with St Mark’s GAA Club in Tallaght.
Down South, his cousin in Ballyhea might have refloated an intercounty career. “Pa did reasonably well for the U21s this week in the first half,” says club PRO John Mortell. “I’m told he was on heavy antibiotics at the time for a severe dose of the flu. So you’d have to put that factor into his performance as well.”
Mortell was a selector with this season’s Cork Minors, who lost their Munster semi-final to Tipperary on Thursday evening. Despite that disappointment, he was pleased to see their clubman back with Cork: “Pa has loads of ability. So it’s up to himself what he wants to make of it.”
His Dublin relation is proud of their shared roots. “Dotsy was down with us last year for a few days, around his uncle Jackie’s funeral,” continues Mortell. “From what I heard, he made a point of going around to visit all his cousins, and made a great impression on everyone with his good humour and decency.
“Sarah O’Keeffe, Pa’s first cousin and another of Jackie’s grandchildren, hurls wing forward with our camogie team, who won their Junior title last year.”
Dotsy O’Callaghan is known to have said privately that he hopes to stay playing long enough with Dublin that he might meet a Cork championship side including Pa O’Callaghan. That eventuality will not occur this weekend. 2017 might be another story.
John Mortell is generous in summary. “Maybe it’s different in other parishes, where the children of people who have left are concerned,” he notes. “But definitely in Ballyhea there’s always been a general awareness that Dotsy has a strong connection with our place.
“We’d certainly be delighted any time he’s going well with Dublin. And he has hurled well overall this year, in fairness, both in the league and against Kilkenny.” Still, this native cannot stint a necessary moral.
“Yes, we very much like to see Dotsy going well,” he concludes. “Except when Dublin are playing Cork!” This evening will tell a tale in that regard as well as in the crucial one of who stays alive in the qualifiers.
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