“If I didn’t want to be on the road for so long, I would just leave”

There was a gaping hole at the top of Dublin’s attack during a stuttering league campaign that ended in Division 2 relegation, but the ‘King’ is back and it’s like Con O’Callaghan was never gone.

A knee problem halted O’Callaghan’s gallop somewhat last summer, before an ankle injury – he didn’t go under the knife despite some reports suggesting otherwise – that emerged on the eve of the league saw him sidelined during a frustrating spring.

“It’s part of the sport and is guaranteed to come at some point,” he explained.

He never sees a hectic schedule between his club and the county
Commitments as a chore without his Cuala hurling days dying down anytime soon.

“I love playing football. The more I play, the more I enjoy it. We’ve also had a lot of great days with the club, people have sometimes asked, ‘Oh, you’ve been away for so long’, but when I don’t wanted to be there, I just left.”

The timing of his latest setback wasn’t ideal, however, with Dessie Farrell’s inexperienced dubs losing their first four league games and cracks emerging in the Empire.

Although the 26-year-old, who works at PwC and is on educational leave before graduating as a chartered accountant in August, describes himself as a bad viewer, the panic button was not pressed and the negative chatter surrounding them was dismissed.

“I suppose if you’re fine there are a lot of positive comments, I suppose too many. There’s always that balance of never being as good or as bad as you make it out to be. You’re probably somewhere in the middle.

“It was important that we kept perspective, obviously some of that stuff is going to seep in from the outside, but it’s important that we kept perspective, there was an end goal in sight, we just had to build up and bring achievements to where we want to go.”

There were even some rumors during Dublin’s rough patch that O’Callaghan, who was later named vice-captain for the season, switched codes to join his brother Cian in the slingshots under his former Cuala boss Mattie Kenny.

“Sometimes people would come up to me and tell me I’m going to the slingshots,” he chuckled. “That was the first time I heard about it. You hear about it (rumours) but most of it is nonsense.”

As is his habit, the three-time All-Star belied any rust to make a stunning debut against Wexford in Leinster SFC’s opener in 2022, going 6-1 from the game and he was similarly influential when they defeated Meath last weekend with “a fairly complete offensive performance”.

That leads to a final Leinster vs. Kildare showdown, with the league loss to the Lilies unlikely to lack motivation as they chase a stunning 12th provincial crown in a row.

O’Callaghan expects a “big challenge” from Glenn Ryan’s side – “a really strong team with a lot of really good athletes, especially up front” – and then it’s on to the spirit of last year’s shock All-Ireland semi-final loss to Mayo, the is laid to rest.

The days that followed their seven-in-a-row dreams going up in smoke were “a bit of a hurricane because you don’t know where your head is,” with a holiday to Portugal that being so organized was that he softened to blow before All-Ireland The Last Day rolled around.

O’Callaghan, who joined Dublin in 2016, has always had a personal interest in the biggest day of football’s calendar and “it felt strange not to be involved”, despite not viewing Dublin as the hunter but as the hunted this year.

“Even when we won back-to-back All-Irelands, you probably don’t see yourself as the team that’s being chased.

“You always try to change it that you are chasing something or chasing a better performance than the last day.

“And that’s what we’re focusing on. If we play to our potential and play against ourselves as best we can, we’ll be in a decent position.”

With O’Callaghan in full swing, they’ll rarely be in a bad position.

O’Callaghan launched AIG’s Support4Drummo jersey swap fundraiser for Seán Drummond, a former Cuala player who suffered life-changing injuries in a crash in 2019. To donate, visit:

https://www.independent.ie/sport/gaelic-games/gaelic-football/if-i-didnt-want-to-be-on-the-road-for-this-long-id-just-leave-41660913.html “If I didn’t want to be on the road for so long, I would just leave”

Fry Electronics Team

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