Cian: All Star 'just amazing'
IT'S the great All Star debate, an annual contretemps which always serves well to fill the winter void, regardless of the method of selection.
Problem: Better to honour the outstanding candidate in each of the 15 traditional positions, regardless of the concentration of strength (or lack of it) in any individual spot or, as could be argued about the present system, use some poetic license to creatively reward the best 15 players in a given season?
Case study: Cian O'Sullivan.
All six matches of Dublin's All-Ireland win he begun in midfield, two he finished in defence.
Yet such was the magnificence of Colm Cooper's first half performance in the All-Ireland SFC quarter-final and the potential peril it posed to Dublin's continued interest in this summer, O'Sullivan was given the centre-back All Star for his Gooch-quenching subsequent 35 minutes.
"It's not something I've really looked back on," admits O'Sullivan on the importance of that brief sojourn back to defence. I only really did play there for a half and ended up winning an All Star. Seán Cavanagh was selected at half-forward and I don't think he played there much throughout the summer."
According to the versatile Kilmacud Crokes man, the award - his first "was never on my radar at all," though he's grateful all the same.
"I wasn't too fussed about it," O'Sullivan adds, "until I was there on the night, sitting in the chair and they were calling out the names.
"It's only looking back on it afterwards that I kind of realised that it is a big honour and I'm very grateful to have been nominated and then to win the award was just amazing."
"Tony Kelly echoed what most of the lads would think, you'd trade 10 All Stars for one Celtic Cross, albeit it was nice winning the All Star but it doesn't come close to the feeling on the third Sunday in September when you're celebrating with the lads after winning an All-Ireland."
Gazing onwards, O'Sullivan - like most involved with Dublin - is hopeful that the Spring Series can continue into next season, despite the current debate over the viability of its immediate future.
"From a player's point of view, it's nice to play in Croke Park and it's great for the younger lads, I suppose," O'Sullivan reckons. "It's a great experience for them to get a few games under their belt and then when they go into the summer at least they're not playing there for the first time. I don't think it would be a major deal if we did go back to Parnell," he adds.
"I'm not sure what the capacity is for Parnell but I'm sure they'd fill it out for the league games. It would be a great environment, smaller stadium, so the atmosphere would be great. Yeah, I don't know what the future holds for the Spring Series. From a players' point of view I don't think it's a major issue."
Of the prospect of retaining Sam Maguire - one to which he is already accustomed - O'Sullivan says: "Hopefully we will have learned from 2012, from our experience then, even though we did get to an All-Ireland semi-final. We probably weren't as competitive as we wanted to be in that game.
"I think having been there in 2012, it will definitely stand to us this year, we know what to expect and hopefully be able to deal with it.
O'Sullivan was speaking at a joint media event between Dublin GAA and the All Blacks, brought together by Dublin's new sponsor AIG, during which he swapped jerseys with no less an athlete than legendary Kiwi flanker Richie McCaw.
"The last couple of years, you know, our strength and conditioning coaches are involved with Leinster, our nutritionist is involved with Leinster so there is a kind of ... the rugby set up does compliment what we're trying to do in strength and conditioning to a certain degree, and the nutrition and all of that," he explains of the potential for cross over between the codes.
"We're miles behind them obviously," he admitted, "they're professional sportsmen, at it 24/7 but it's great to be able to kind of learn things and add things to our game. I think the last couple of years the bar has been constantly raised in Gaelic football. There's new things been added all the time. The commitment is getting stronger and stronger.
"The demand from players is getting greater and greater," he adds.
"You know, to be able to brush shoulders with a few of these boys is great opportunity for us," concluded the Kilmacud Crokes man.