Cats ambush 'not beyond the realms'
David O'Callaghan reckons it's not "beyond the realms" of possibility that Dublin hurlers will ambush Kilkenny in their opening Leinster SHC round-robin clash.
And Parnell Park victory, on May 13, could prove just the kickstart that Pat Gilroy's charges need to revitalise the Dubs as a summer force.
O'Callaghan - a league winner in 2011 and Leinster SHC medallist in 2013 - retired from inter-county hurling during the closed-season.
But he's still keeping a close watch on Dublin, especially with several of his old colleagues having returned to the squad. While their Allianz League Division 1B form has been patchy - a crushing home defeat to Offaly followed by a last-ditch one-point victory in Antrim on Sunday - Kilkenny's recent fall from pre-eminence has been reflected in back-to-back 1A losses to Cork and Clare.
"Over the next few weeks there's going to be great tests, but there seems to be more and more lads coming back from injuries, and there's more lads behind the scenes ready to come in as well who have good experience," says O'Callaghan, speaking at yesterday's Sports Physio Ireland launch.
"If they can hit the (league) knockout stages and just get as many games as possible, and then coming into championship you've got all that squad available … there's a lot of lads who are seriously talented hurlers.
"If that can be gelled together, you're playing Kilkenny in the first round and that has to be a target. Is that beyond the realms, Dublin winning that game? I wouldn't think so.
"If you could get that going, it doesn't take a whole lot for Dublin hurling to get on a bit of a roll. So I think you'd be targeting that game, and that would inject huge confidence going forward.
"But obviously there's a lot of work to be done before that and Pat (Gilroy) has to try and gel all that together and get the team playing fluidly and working hard. I'm sure they're working on that at the moment."
As for his own retirement decision last November, the St Mark's clubman harbours no regrets. Even though he turned up at regional trials organised by Gilroy shortly after his announcement, the body and mind were telling him it was time to walk away.
"I did push it out myself, I trained myself really hard for a month just to see if the enthusiasm as well would come back and if the body would feel ready to go into that full-on setting," he recalls.
"Unless I could go back in from the off full-on, I didn't want to hang around and didn't see the point in that for myself.
"I suppose I was having slight issues with the (back) injury I had in the past and niggles were coming as well. Mentally as well that can be quite draining.
"Even when I came back in last year, I tore my hamstring straight away after the back injury. We had a good run with the club but I was getting constant niggles in the groin.
"I did try, I went to the regional trial and - to be honest - I was more going out there to nearly shake Pat Gilroy's hand and wish him well. That's pretty much how it was, to be honest."