A fit and rejuvenated Con O’Callaghan could be the missing link as Dublin tries to revive its All-Ireland ambitions, according to Sky Blues legend Paul Curran.
Essie Farrell’s fallen champions have had a miserable nine months after losing their six-year stranglehold on Sam Maguire last August and then suffering relegation to the top flight this spring.
But as Dublin prepares to launch its final Leinster SFC campaign against outsiders Wexford on Saturday, Curran has identified O’Callaghan as crucial to hopes of a dramatic Championship resurgence.
The 1995 Texaco Footballer of the Year still believes the All-Ireland title is “Kerry to lose”, but he doesn’t rule out a Dubs setback in 2022.
O’Callaghan didn’t play a minute of league football as his district was relegated to Division 2 after reportedly suffering an ankle injury during a challenge game against Roscommon in January, but he is now on the verge of a return.
And Curran, his Cuala manager in 2020-21, explained: “I’ve been fortunate to manage a couple of clubs and a lot of good players – but Con stands above all in terms of his football skills but also what he brings to it the field.
“Con wore an injury I would say most of the year (in 2021); When he came back to us after the county ended, he certainly had an injury and we tried to treat him. Well he played all but one of the championship games I think and was key in Cuala winning that Senior 2 championship.
“He really played the last two league games with us last year on one leg, didn’t train much, just played the two games. And I think he went 2-19 on one leg in the two games… that will tell you how important he was to us and how important he can be to Dublin this year.
“He’s had a break – he hasn’t had any of those in a long time, it was all going on, hurling and football. So I think you could be looking at a rejuvenated Con O’Callaghan,” Curran predicted.
“We don’t know too much; hopefully he is fit enough. He hasn’t been in football for a couple of months now but he’s taking care of himself, he’s fit of course…he could be a huge spark for us.”
Despite recent results, the 1995 All-Ireland winner remains “positive enough” about Dublin’s near-term prospects and believes they could give the Championship a “proper start”.
He acknowledged that defense was a problem while clarifying: “It’s not necessarily a problem with the back six, I think we give the ball away way too much, something that hasn’t happened under Jim (Gavin), when we were very sparing in possession, always able to keep that ball alive until we put it in position to score.
Though Kerry’s little stars have taken “a long time” to fully rise to the helm, Curran believes they’re now at the box office after the appointment of a “seasoned manager” in Jack O’Connor and “a bit of steel”. sit” brought by trainer Paddy Tally.
On Dublin’s longer-term prospects, he warned: “I’m not negative, but I’m realistic. Watching what is happening to minors in Dublin, I think there could be a gradual slippage here.
“You see, the level they have reached over the past few years has been exceptional. There has always been a decline – major personnel changes in the last five years; we lost incredible footballers to retirement; We lost one or two others who were still playing who decided to drop out for various reasons.
“So that affects the group. I don’t think the guys who are coming through are that good, they still have to develop a bit so I would see a difficult time for us. We’re all looking forward to seeing how they progress after last year, but not being successful this year – I think – could signal another drop.”
https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/he-could-be-a-massive-spark-for-us-paul-curran-backs-a-fit-con-ocallaghan-to-reignite-dublins-chances-41596154.html ‘He could be a big spark for us’ – Paul Curran is backing a fit Con O’Callaghan to reignite Dublin’s chances