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Thursday 12 December 2019

Superstar Con has fear factor

O'Callaghan the biggest draw for Parnell clashes

Con O’Callaghan in action for Cuala against Kilmacud Crokes in the Dublin SHC
Con O’Callaghan in action for Cuala against Kilmacud Crokes in the Dublin SHC

In March of 2017 Mattie Kenny, having managed Cuala to a pioneering All-Ireland club title, was asked to appraise the possibility that Con O'Callaghan might never take his hurling talents to the inter-county stage.

"I'd say that's not a true remark," Kenny stressed.

"I wouldn't rule out the chance they he'll play senior hurling. Because he is talented enough to be able to change over at any time."

Two-and-a-half years later and O'Callaghan's reputation as a hurler of immense inter-county potential has grown exponentially, while Kenny's interest in such an outcome is now a personal one.

Meanwhile, O'Callaghan has become arguably the most dangerous forward in football, a three-time All-Ireland winner, and an even money bet for this year's Footballer of the Year award.

Superstar

On Sunday, Cuala play St. Vincent's in the Dublin SHC semi-final (4.30), the second part of a double bill, and it says much about O'Callaghan's burgeoning status as a modern-day GAA superstar that he is the hurler on whom most eyes will be trained in Parnell Park.

His two goals against Kilmacud Crokes in Cuala's final group game, just eight days after the All-Ireland football final replay, guaranteed that.

"It gives you a new lease of life, it gives you more energy because you're doing something different," says Conal Keaney, himself well-versed in switching codes after the inter-county season is over.

"When you go back from inter-county hurling to hurling for your club, it's a whole new dynamic.

"I'd say he loves that it's something new and a different challenge and he seems to be relishing it.

"Even where he plays and the way Cuala play, they give him as much space as possible and all he has to do is run and get the ball.

"Once he gets it," Keaney notes, "it's nearly impossible to stop him."

What is most remarkable about O'Callaghan is how his long period of inactivity has not dulled his potency.

"You'll get away with probably the normal skills, like catching and striking, because you'd be keeping your eye in at that and he would be pucking around with his brothers," Keaney notes.

"It's the other skills when the game heats up and the ball is coming to you with a lot more pace on it on the ground that you need your touch.

"And that's going to get easier because the pitches are getting wetter and slower.

"He's in prime condition and when he's on such a good vein of form he can keep it going.

"The game Cuala play suits him down to the ground and he probably has that fear factor as well, he probably knows that lads are standing off him a bit because they don't want him to take him on."

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