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Saturday 10 December 2016

Cian O'Callaghan primed for a start for the Dubs

Dublin starlet wants to travel direct route this summer

IF such a thing exists as a sure thing for a Championship debut this summer, it’s Cian O’Callaghan.

Indeed, the fact that Sunday in Croke Park will almost certainly be his summer bow seems a bit strange, so ingrained has he become in the Dublin full-back line this year.

On the day the League started last February with Dublin’s big win over Tipperary in Parnell Park, O’Callaghan was actually chosen as captain as Ger Cunningham passed the honour around to see which pair of shoulders was the snuggest fit for such a responsibility.

“Last year, I was a young lad and I didn’t know too many people,” he recalls. “Whereas this year, I feel more embedded into the team and into the panel.

“I suppose I’ve gotten to know people a bit better. So there is a contrast.”

“After a year, you get a bit more comfortable. You come out of your skin a bit. And I suppose that shows out on the pitch as well.

“Better communication or whatever.”

Along with Paul Schutte and the recently-relocated Peter Kelly, O’Callaghan makes up a line that, on the oscillating evidence of Dublin’s turbulent spring, looks the tightest and perhaps, the least cause of worry for Cunningham.

“Peter is brilliant,” says O’Callaghan of the co-captain who flirted briefly at the start of the year with a move to centre-back.

“He brings something different. He’s a big fella who is very mobile and very fast. He closes up space brilliantly as well.

“He’s very calm under that sort of pressure. But that’s the experience that he has. He has an All Star there. It comes with games and comes with experience.

“The whole time, we were probably aiming for consistency in our performances,” O’Callaghan reflects of the League. “And they were probably the two keys words there: ‘consistency’ and ‘performance’.

“I think, on the whole, we were relatively consistent. Apart from the blip against Cork in Croke Park, we were actually always there or thereabouts in the last 10 minutes coming into matches.”

“So there are definitely a lot of positives to take out of the League.”

Sunday, of course, is highly different.

“Playing in Croke Park against any team is great but we know how good Galway are,” O’Callaghan reasons.

“They have beaten Kilkenny in a Leinster final a couple of years ago. So we’re under no illusions there. We know how good they are.”

Win, and Dublin’s summer is mapped out in front of them. Lose, and the the route back to Croke Park gets slippery.

“They are incomparable,” he insists.

“I suppose we just have to look at the Galway game. That’s all we can do.

“We’re just looking to perform and get the win. But you want to win that match and go on a Leinster campaign.”

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