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Cian's got a thirst for more Dubs success

O'Sullivan feeling fresh and ready to rock as Boys in Blue bid for six in-a-row

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Dublin team-mates Diarmuid Connolly of St Vincent’s and Kilmacud Crokes’ Cian O’Sullivan

Dublin team-mates Diarmuid Connolly of St Vincent’s and Kilmacud Crokes’ Cian O’Sullivan

SPORTSFILE

Dublin team-mates Diarmuid Connolly of St Vincent’s and Kilmacud Crokes’ Cian O’Sullivan

The departure lounge has been seeing heavier than usual traffic over the last 12 months but Cian O'Sullivan was one man who wasn't ready to leave the Dublin GAA terminal just yet. For O'Sullivan, the point of no return will become obvious whenever it does manifest.

But as Dublin experience an exodus of unprecedented proportions - Bernard Brogan, Eoghan O'Gara, Jack McCaffrey, Darren Daly and Diarmuid Connolly as well as manager Jim Gavin and selector Paul Clarke all exiting since last year's All-Ireland triumph.

But O'Sullivan is relishing in a protracted injury-free spell, coming off what he acknowledges has been one of the most enjoyable cub campaigns he has experienced, simply because he got to train regularly with his Kilmacud Crokes team-mates.

Chase

A fifth successive medal to add to the two he had won previously may have been the perfect time to bookend a fine Dublin career but limited involvement in the last three All-Ireland finals (including last year's replay) has perhaps left him with something more to chase.

"The rest was definitely welcome and I think I used the time well to shore up some of the injuries that had been niggling and hindering me for the last couple of years," he said.

"I didn't take part in our club campaign last year but I did a good pre-season before the pandemic hit. I continued with that through lockdown and played the club campaign this time."

Retirement, he insists, wasn't given a second thought. "It's not something that ever dropped into my head. I think when that time comes it will be very obvious to me and it wasn't then," he said of those weeks and months that followed last year's All-Ireland replay win over Kerry, securing the five-in-a-row.

"After a long campaign like that, I always want to step away from football in any year after we finish and whether we won an All-Ireland or not. And once the club finishes up I just want to hang up my boots for a month or two and consider it. When the time came around again, when I got the call from Dessie (Farrell) to go training again, there wasn't a second thought for me.

"If you trace down through the years, there has certainly been more (retirements) in the last 12 months than there has been in previous years.

"But there has always been a rejuvenation and recycling of personnel in the team. It's no different, what we have tried to create is an environment and culture there that continues and lives on, regardless of the personnel that is in the team."

O'Sullivan's personal circumstances have changed too. His wife Danielle gave birth to their first child, Bonnie, in April, not long after the country had all but shut down to suppress the early stages of Covid-19. By his reckoning, he's now the only father in the current Dublin squad.

"Even those first couple of weeks where it's (a case of) just batten down the hatches and it's survival mode with the new baby, I was at home the whole time and there was no training going on.

"I was lucky that those two periods aligned. This year it's unique and it's probably an advantage in that respect for me because I am getting a bit more time at home and a little bit more flexibility around work, sport and personal life than I might not have in previous times."

The latest departure, Diarmuid Connolly's retirement, takes a great talent from the dressing-room but also, according to O'Sullivan a leader.

Leadership

"I don't need to tell anyone how great a footballer he was. That's plain to see. What people didn't see and what probably went unnoticed was his leadership within the dressing room and the group. He was a key figure in establishing this group's identity. I think that is something that he has left there in the changing room and something that will live on even though he is gone from the team."

As the country moves onto level three today, with the prospect of lifting to higher levels in the coming weeks and months it places a question mark of the inter-county championships but O'Sullivan sees little benefit in expending energy on speculation.

"When you start sowing that little bit of doubt, I think it can impede your preparations. The level of commitment that's required to play this sport, if you're not preparing and doing justice to the commitment you're putting in then you're doing yourself a disservice.

"I think you really need to apply yourself and train with the mentality that this is 100 per cent going ahead."