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Friday 24 November 2017

'It's just right time for me to retire' admits Dublin legend Dotsy

Dublin hurler David O’Callaghan has called time on his lengthy inter-county career
Dublin hurler David O’Callaghan has called time on his lengthy inter-county career

In the end, Dotsy O'Callaghan admits, he didn't really have a decision to make.

On Saturday, he went along to DCU and played 20 minutes for one of the regional teams that contested Pat Gilroy's trial tournament.

Yet just as he suspected deep down, the mind and touch were still sharp but O'Callaghan's body just i sn't quite in sync any more.

Last year, he battled an injury brought on by a nerve trapped by a disc in his back but managed to get onto the pitch in Ger Cunningham's last few games as Dublin hurling manager.

The giddy curiosity brought about by Pat Gilroy's appointment forced O'Callaghan back to the gym to try and see whether he could squeeze one more year out of it.

"I was very close to stepping away last year," O'Callaghan told the Herald after confirming his inter-county retirement via a statement published yesterday morning on the Dublin county board's website.

"Obviously with new management coming in and when you hear who's coming in, there is that bit of excitement.

"You're thinking, 'Jeez, wouldn't it great to be a part of it?' But ultimately, there are a few lingering things that aren't going away to the extent that I would like.

"So at 34 years of age, if I can get back and play some club hurling with Mark's, help out there and enjoy playing with them that's the aim now."

Regrets

Thus, he steps off the inter-county stage with no regrets about having more to give.

"If I was 23 again, starting off, I'd be hugely excited about the prospect of it starting off again. But really, my time has come."

Naturally then, O'Callaghan's phone buzzed all morning with texts of congratulations on an inter-county career that took in both football and hurling and lasted a decade and a half.

His response of mutual appreciation to Anthony Daly crystalised the extent of Dublin's progress during his time.

"Just to get up the steps of the Hogan Stand would have been something you would have been laughed at when you were younger if you'd suggested it," he explained.

"The view towards Dublin hurling wouldn't have been too great. So to get up there after winning a Leinster title and a League title, they were special moments."

He has no single stand-out memory.

O'Callaghan's hurling career, particularly that bit that followed his repatriation with the hurlers in 2007, straddled a period of discernible and accelerated progress, sign posted by the most memorable days of O'Callaghan's career.

"There were just mini breakthroughs all the time," he explains.

"Beating Wexford (in 2009) in Nowlan Park, our first time in a Leinster final. That was phenomenal.

"Then the National League final (in 2011) and you're walloping Kilkenny in Croke Park - that was a special day.

"Then beating them in Portlaoise in 2013. I think I floated home. I didn't sleep that night. I was on an absolute high.

"And winning the Leinster final and beating Galway like we did, that made it an incredible few weeks."

The last three years were, O'Callaghan admits, disappointing from a personal point of view.

"Because," he explains, "I was starting to get a bit more comfortable as I was getting older.

"But overall, there was obviously a lot of unhappiness among a lot of players . I can't speak on behalf of any of them.

"But it was very disappointing to see them upset with how things were going or stepping away unhappy.

Disappointment

"Ger had a different style and different views on things. That was a change from the six years under Dalo."

"But," he adds, "Ger was good to me. And I would have gained from his hurling knowledge. But I suppose from an overall point of view, it was disappointing, results-wise."

"But to be brutally honest, 2014 was a big disappointment, too. After winning the Leinster title (in 2013) and beating Kilkenny, we felt we would build on that.

"It was a shame we didn't build on it."

He won't be part of it but O'Callaghan is optimistic for the immediate future of the Dublin hurlers.

Under Gilroy, he reckons, the potential for Dublin to have their strongest-ever squad is a genuine possibility now.

His term, O'Callaghan hopes, could be the equaliser hurling needs in Dublin.

"Growing up, I would have preferred hurling. I played for the Dublin footballers for a few years but I wouldn't have been making that decision if there were the same opportunities with the hurlers," he points out.

"If a fella wants to play football, good luck to him. But what you want to achieve is having hurling at a level in Dublin where fellas can aspire to win an All-Ireland.

"So the decision is which they prefer as a game," O'Callaghan concludes, "rather than which they can have the most success with."

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