Sunday 20 October 2019

From a Dub to a club

Not everyone can park history like 'King Con'

Cuala Con O’Callaghan terrorised Kilmacud Crokes’ hurlers at Parnell Park on Sunday
Cuala Con O’Callaghan terrorised Kilmacud Crokes’ hurlers at Parnell Park on Sunday

Con O'Callaghantruly is a freak of nature.

As several elite defenders have discovered in the football championship just gone, there is no good time to be entrusted with the job of marking Dublin's go-to assassin.

Ask Lee Keegan, former Footballer of the Year. Ask Tom O'Sullivan, still a probable All Star despite his All-Ireland replay travails.

And now ask the frazzled hurlers of Kilmacud Crokes.

In their more optimistic pre-match moments, the latter must have hoped that the best time to be facing King Con is just eight days after he had delivered another monumental performance to create All-Ireland history.

In another code, as you do.

Seven minutes into Sunday's Dublin SHC quarter-final, Crokes had their answer. O'Callaghan, part-time hurler extraordinaire, had bagged a brace and Cuala were on their way to emphatic victory.

But not every Dublin footballer will enjoy such a seamless return to their clubs in the warm, fuzzy afterglow of five-in-a-row.

The majority, those who don't dabble in small ball, will be back in action this coming weekend. Two weeks should be enough time to recover, physically, from the searing intensity of that All-Ireland final replay against Kerry. But is it enough time to recalibrate and recharge the batteries after the emotional roller coaster of Dublin's Drive for Five?

On that score, this column was struck by the comments of Jonny Cooper is a fascinating Sunday Independent interview last weekend.

The interview touched all the important bases - the traumas of his drawn final red; the very different trauma of a knife attack while on his way home from a night out in 2014; his early struggle to establish himself as a Dublin senior - but we were also struck by what he said about Na Fianna. "I definitely fell away from the club through my own selfishness and probably ignorance," Cooper admitted.

"I think when you come back off the end of a season with Dublin and you are 'matched out' - everything has gone into that, emotionally, physically, mentally - and then the club window is the couple of weeks after and you go back into the club a couple of days later but you're not there, you're not contributing and then you lose the game and are knocked out of the championship and there's an odd league game but there's nothing really to be around for. And then on the volunteer side of it, you are not even going down, you are not being at the nursery, you are not even showing a face."

Cooper's own personal experiences, over time, had taught him to "show more gratitude, that you are where you are because of the club and other people - you are not where you are on your own. So you try to give positive experiences back to other young people who look up to you. Like I had with Geezer and Dessie and Senan and Jay."

Cooper's commitment is now clear, off the pitch and on it. He will hope to inspire Na Fianna in a winner-takes-all group SFC clash against Ballymun Kickhams in Parnell Park this Friday (8.15). Ditto his clubmate, Dublin's unlikely goalscoring hero, Eoin Murchan.

But, in the opposite camp, are six members of Jim Gavin's All-Ireland '26': James McCarthy, Dean Rock, John and Paddy Small, Philly McMahon and Evan Comerford.

Here are implacable club rivals coming down from the ultimate shared sporting high. Are they 'matched out' (as Cooper might say) or can they rediscover that perfect performance pitch so soon again?

Not everyone can be King Con ...

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