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Friday 9 December 2016

We have to keep our total focus - O'Sull'

SKINS launched their new DNAmic compression wear with ambassador Dublin footballer Cian O’Sullivan at the Dublin Sports Clinic, South Cumberland Street yesterday: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
SKINS launched their new DNAmic compression wear with ambassador Dublin footballer Cian O’Sullivan at the Dublin Sports Clinic, South Cumberland Street yesterday: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE

These are heady days for Dublin football.

They're defending All-Ireland senior champions.

As it goes, they've three titles from five attempts at winning it, a strike-rate comparable with the best team ever to represent the county.

Consequently, some of their number are writing themselves into the 'Greatest Dublin Players Of All Time' debate.

Presently, their success is reflected nationally in the howling of injustice over the county's levels of funding, something which went largely unnoticed until they started winning all these titles.

More short-term, they're two from two in this year's Allianz League - a competition they've won three times on the spin.

Kerry came to play ball in Croker and Dublin blew them away with a confidence that has become de rigueur of late in contests between the two.

Mayo then set up a scrap in Castlebar and Dublin came through with similar levels of authority and a sprinkle of unseasonal class.

Two games. Two All-Ireland contenders. Two wins.

Which makes the ability to ignore all such inebriating talk a vital life skill of the modern Dublin footballer.

"Yeah, I think you have to," agrees Cian O'Sullivan, generally as unflappable off the pitch as he is on it.

"There is a lot of, you know, we'd be talked about a bit in the media and there'd be friends, family and work colleagues and everything, kind of murmurs, kind of whispers about two-in-a-row, three-in-a-row," he explains.

"You have to just block that out and push the reset button and not get carried away with yourself and just focus on the next goal, which is Monaghan in three weeks' time.

"Because you don't want your imagination to start running away with things."

Suspicion

Having orchestrated the Dublin defence in the Kerry victory, O'Sullivan missed the Mayo trip after picking up a bug but he was naturally encouraged with what he saw from the warm vantage point of his couch.

Late January/early February isn't generally productive territory for returning All-Ireland champions and thus the suspicion that Dublin have several speedier gears into which to change - a pace that none of their remaining spring opponents could keep - has purveyed.

"It's easy to get caught into that thinking.," O'Sullivan admits. They're a good two victories for us.

"But at the same time, we're only into February now and teams are only back a few weeks now.

"You'd be foolish to get carried away with yourself with two wins in a year. But at the same time, from our perspective, to have the points under the belt ... I think it was two good performances that we had. So we're very happy."

Whether the four points gleaned from two matches now gives Jim Gavin scope to conduct greater experiment, O'Sullivan's not quite sure.

"In years gone past, it has been a great opportunity to prepare for the summer. We've looked at it that way.

"That's not to say we're not very proud of the leagues we've won. But it is an opportunity for teams to try new players or try new strategies.

"Whether we're in the driving seat in terms of the Division, that shouldn't change."

Mobility

His own nomadic days have stablised too.

It will be said of O'Sullivan when he retires that he won All-Irelands at corner-back (2011), midfield (2013) and centre-back (2015) but he seems pretty settled now in the latter.

"I suppose you are just trying to identify the danger zones," he says of that sweeping number six role his natural mobility allows him to play so well.

"It's not just my responsibility, it's our whole half-back line and even our midfield.

"It's a defensive unit's responsibility to try and get the better of the opposition's front six. It just doesn't rest on my shoulders, it's all the defenders."

Nor does he expect his terms of reference to change much in the absence of Rory O'Carroll.

As long as O'Sullivan has been a Dublin regular, O'Carroll has been the summer number three.

But despite the stylistic differences in the contenders currently vying to replace him, O'Sullivan doesn't see a change in how Dublin defend this year.

"I don't think so. We are all very familiar ... the guys who have slotted in there so far in the league - Davy Byrne, Mick Fitzsimons - they've been part of the squad for the last four or five years anyway.

"We are all very familiar with their playing styles and I think they have slotted in pretty seamlessly in those two games and have done really good jobs.

"I think whoever slots in there it's important not to have a weight on their shoulders and it's important the other players rally around them.

Rally

"It's the unit's responsibility," he adds, "and not just that man's responsibility to try and get the better of them."

O'Sullivan is expected to return to the Dublin starting team for their next league outing against Monaghan in Croke Park on February 27 (7.0) when Kevin McManamon, Brian Fenton and Paul Flynn may make their seasonal returns from injury.

Eoghan O'Gara, who is recuperating from a cruciate ligament injury, and Bernard Brogan are not expected to see any action until the second half of Dublin's spring campaign.

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