PAT GILROY has already drawn a line through last week’s opening league win over Kerry but Cian O’Sullivan will find it much more difficult to leave his memories of Killarney behind.
Born and reared in the capital, the Dublin centre-back traces his roots on both sides of the tree back to the Kingdom. His dad John is from Kilgarvan. Mum Noreen hails from Firies.
A young Cian spent a number of his summers down in the south-west and both parents were on hand to see him make his full senior competitive debut for the Dubs six days ago.
For O’Sullivan, it wasn’t just his family ties that made the two-point win so special. His first appearance for his county had come in that All-Ireland quarter-final between the same old rivals last August.
There were only 28 minutes played when he replaced Bryan Cullen that day in Croke Park but Dublin were already 1-10 to a point down by then.
Talk about a day of mixed emotions.
“A bit of a surreal feeling, really. Getting my debut is something that I’ll never forget but it was in such a bad fashion the way we lost the match.
“We’ve forgotten about that match, thankfully. We’re just looking to this year and, hopefully, the end product will be is better than last year.”
Kerry won’t bat an eyelid after losing last week but the importance of the win for Dublin should not be underestimated, even if Gilroy has waved away the result as a mere irrelevance. O’Sullivan was one of 10 greenhorns who started and it says something that they held on even if their hosts were equally bereft of experienced shoulders on which to lean.
“Kerry had an onslaught for the last 15 minutes or so. We showed good resolve to come out with the win. That was a good test, the last 15 minutes. Hopefully we’ll be able to carry that into the game this week and so on and so forth.”
Still just 21, O’Sullivan will be vying for possession of the pivotal number six jersey this season along with Cullen and Ger Brennan but he comes to the inter-county scene with a healthy CV. He already has one All-Ireland medal to his name after Kilmacud Crokes’ success last March and he was part of Dublin’s U21 Leinster championship success a few short months later.
It’s an impressive season’s work for any one man but nothing short of Sam Maguire seems to impress Joe Public in Dublin and that’s one difference O’Sullivan has noticed after his time in Kerry.
“Football’s a religion down there. It’s everything. You realise even after winning an All-Ireland club medal. If you won an All-Ireland club medal down in Kerry, you know, it would be such a big deal.
“Up in Dublin, around Stillorgan and stuff, there’s so many competing sports, rugby, soccer, but the focus is football down there and that’s it. Up here we’ve got all these other sports. There definitely is a big difference.”
That said, he expects a tougher ride this week, even though Dublin will be playing at home and their opponents have spent even longer waiting for an All-Ireland than they have.
Derry have demonstrated their compatibility with the league in the last two seasons and began their latest campaign with a dismantling of Mickey Harte’s Tyrone up in Celtic Park.
“Kerry were just a few weeks back from holidays and weren’t as fit as us. Derry will be a different story. Their fitness levels are a bit higher and we’ll be anticipating a tough match and a tough test.”
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