Sunday 17 December 2017

Cian O'Callaghan: I'm desperate to make my mark for the Dubs

Parnell may be a fortress but O'Callaghan sees more Blues benefit in HQ exposure

Cian O'Callaghan
Cian O'Callaghan

CALL it the bravado of youth or a simple statement of the obvious, but Cian O'Callaghan isn't overly bothered by the Dublin hurlers' recent history of Croke Park trauma.

"I hadn't really thought about it at all," the young corner-back replies, with the steadiest of straight bats. "I mean, I am only in the panel for the last year and a bit."

For much of the past four seasons, while Parnell Park has been a City Blue citadel, the Dubs have struggled to buy a win whenever they venture two miles down the road.

Travel sickness can hardly be blamed for the malaise.


Croker's more open expanses have been cited by some hurling anthropologists to explain results such as Cork's 34-point scoring frenzy, earlier this month ... O'Callaghan doesn't buy that theory.

Nor does he view the 5pm staging of tomorrow's Allianz Hurling League quarter-final against Limerick at HQ - and not Donncarney - in anything but a positive light.

Dublin haven't won in Croker since the 2013 Leinster final against Galway and their last league victory there came in the 2011 Division One final. "I wouldn't have been around for most of those matches," O'Callaghan points out, speaking at AIG's launch of its new XLNTdriver App.

"You'd actually prefer to be playing at Croke Park than Parnell Park because that's where we are going to be playing in the summer. You want to build towards Croke Park the whole time ... the match on Saturday gives us a great opportunity to get out there again and to really go at it."

The Cuala man, still only 21, expands: "It's much more beneficial to the team. You are always looking at the long term, to be playing there in the summer. I mean, it's only ten weeks until we play Galway there."

Is that the view of everyone? "I think as a panel, yeah. You want to challenge yourself at the highest level, and the highest level is Croke Park," he reiterates.

"Performance" is a key buzzword in O'Callaghan's lexicon. It's not that results don't matter - clearly, they do - but logic dictates that you can't keep expecting good results in a performance vacuum.

Clearly, Dublin didn't perform against Cork - all the DPP need do is quote the half-time score (0-21 to 0-8) and smugly add: "The prosecution will not be calling any witnesses."

O'Callaghan was part of a labouring, yet scantily protected full-back line that evening. He rejects the insinuation that Croke Park was a factor in the display, describing it as "just a once-off. These things happen when you are playing sport at the highest level. Sometimes it goes your way. Sometimes it doesn't. All you have to do is look around the league at different results. There have been big wins for different teams, different days, different pitches."


What happened next - Dublin racing into a seven-point lead in Ennis before they eventually succumbed to 14 Claremen - was different again, he argues.

"We probably did put in a performance. I know we came off two points worse, but … consistency is the main thing and if we keep performing consistently, you will get more wins than losses."

So it transpired against Galway (in Parnell!) last Sunday, when the lingering possibility of being dumped into a relegation play-off was dispelled by a rousing second half.

Defensively, Dublin looked far more assured - the full-back line especially - with O'Callaghan among those to impress. Playing alongside Peter Kelly, switched back to his old edge-of-the-square All Star domain, may have helped.

"Peter Kelly is an absolute leader, as you saw. Him and Rushey (Liam Rushe) were named joint-captains and it would be no surprise to anybody who's on the panel or who knows them," says O'Callaghan.

"Yeah, we are happy with how the match went. Probably the biggest lift for us was that we performed two days in a row … and we eventually got the result against Galway.

"It's good to be staying up in Divison 1A but, I mean, there is not a huge difference between the standard in 1A and 1B. You have Limerick, Waterford, Wexford down in Division 1B - obviously they are brilliant hurling teams and we are looking forward to the challenge of playing Limerick."

And performing. In Croker.

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