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Sunday 23 April 2017

Fortune: O'Donnell has stepped up to be a leader for Dubs

Eoghan O'Donnell of Dublin. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile
Eoghan O'Donnell of Dublin. Photo by Matt Browne/Sportsfile

If Dublin's opening two League results drew a baffling dichotomy, the performances of Eoghan O'Donnell have been the one constant.

On a night when almost every Tipperary player lorded it over Dublin under a tsunami in Croke Park, perhaps their most talented, Seamus Callanan, was dominated by the young Whitehall defender.

That same night, Alan Cadogan scorched Clare for 0-4 yet a week on, O'Donnell beat him on the ground, in the air and anywhere else Cork's stand-in captain cared to take the fight to Dublin in Páirc Uí Rinn

Joe Fortune, O'Donnell's under-21 manager from last year, recalls the first time he set eyes on a pre-Leaving Cert student of huge but mostly raw potential at the beginning of Anthony Daly's last year in Dublin. "Daly asked me to go down and watch them train," Fortune remembers.

"I went home that night and sent him a message that said 'Jesus, you were right about O'Donnell'.

Emerged

"That night he picked Keaney up and f***ed him on the ground.

"He sent me back a message saying 'the way that lad is going, he could well start at the weekend'.

"He was ready to go back then."

That was 2014 but O'Donnell's trajectory straightened momentarily.

Despite having the physical attributes for senior inter-county hurling, O'Donnell had just emerged from the minor ranks and was months away from sitting the Leaving Cert.

"Daly raved about him," Fortune recalls. "But he was Leaving Cert."

"That was the one worrying time that we might have lost him to football," he adds.

"Football was a huge thing for him."

Inevitably for a manager of a Dublin hurling team, Fortune grappled with the magnetic force of football through his tenure.

Ciarán Kilkenny, Cormac Costello and Con O'Callaghan would all have made very profound impacts on the three teams Fortune managed between 2014 and last year and O'Donnell, by his own admission, wasn't far off joining them.

"I think," he admitted just last year, "it was a case that I was selected for the hurlers first.

"When I'm back with the club I love the two and I wouldn't be able to pick between them."

His exclusive exposure to hurling has seen a drastic improvement.

In 2015, he was taken off at half-time in Dublin's U21 loss to Kilkenny in Parnell Park.

A year on, he marked Conor McDonald out of the game in Wexford Park.

"I remember talking to (Wexford manager) JJ Doyle afterwards and he saying to me: 'what did you give him?'

"It took us months to try and work out McDonald's movements but Eoghan would be a fella (that) would be willing to sit down and say 'give me all the info you have'.

"In fairness," Fortune continues. "he's worked an awful lot over the last 12 months on his striking.

"Like Cian O'Callaghan, he's a great man to win a ball, but nowadays it's about what you do with it afterwards."

"The one thing I'd say about him is, he's very eager to learn.

"Once you have him focused, once you have a job for him to do, he'll do it.

"And he would hate to lose at anything, even in training matches."

Just now, as Dublin face an ultra-competitive League without the benefit of deep experience, O'Donnell is providing security exactly where its required.

As Fortune concludes: "He's a fella who has stepped up to be a leader at exactly the time that the team needed them."

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