Sunday 21 April 2019

We're privileged to play for the Dubs ... no matter the cost'

Cormac looking to build on clean bill of health and make claim for starting berth

Dublin’s Cormac Costello has started just two games over the past four All-Ireland Championships. Pic: Sportsfile
Dublin’s Cormac Costello has started just two games over the past four All-Ireland Championships. Pic: Sportsfile

Prior to this year's All-Ireland final, Cormac Costello had scored a point for every 11.7 minutes he had been on the pitch for Dublin in the Championship.

By way of convenient and relevant comparison, David Clifford averaged a score every 11.8 minutes in his break-out summer with Kerry.

That Clifford's 354 minutes were all contained within three months, whereas Costello's 398 minutes were spread wafer thinly over four years is indicative of the latter's cruel luck.

As it went, Costello played 21 minutes of the All-Ireland final after coming on as a substitute for Niall Scully and though he failed to add to his running Championship total of 1-31 (3f, 1'45) in that time, he did barrel his way through the Tyrone cover and hit the butt of Niall Morgan's post not long after his addition.


In a career that has brought five All-Ireland medals but featured just two Championship starts so far, there is no doubt that 2018 was Costello's most involved Championship summer to date.

"Ask any footballer, they want to be playing and on the pitch as much as they possibly can," he said.

"There's different roles for different guys on the team. Some lads play more than others.

"Some lads don't get the chance at all.

"It's just a privilege to put on that jersey and represent Dublin in some way and influence the team; just a privilege to get more time this year."

Not that Costello's appearances haven't been eventful.

In 2016, he played just 14 minutes in two games prior to the drawn All-Ireland final in which he wasn't an active participant.

Yet he came on in the replay and kicked three points to finally bury Mayo.

Last year, meanwhile, he came on for his only appearance of the entire summer in the dying, breathless throes of Dublin's latest final win over Connacht's perennial bridesmaids.

"Yeah, 2017 was a frustrating year," he agreed, "I pulled my hamstring three times.

"It was frustrating but there's a great medical setup there. We get great support from the backroom team and they've all got me back on the pitch so it's a credit to them really.

"The worst would have been eight weeks, I was out for eight weeks at one stage with a torn hamstring.

"So it was a good bulk (of time), you'd miss a whole league campaign, or a good bulk of training throughout the summer which is obviously frustrating.

"But, like I said, I was lucky enough to get back on the pitch in the end of 2017. It was kind of a bitter-sweet moment."

Given the frequency of his injuries, Costello has been remarkably efficient in his time on the pitch.

This year, the clamour for his inclusion from the start grew, particularly after his man-of-the-match display against Roscommon, albeit in a dead-rubber 'Super 8' game.

Meanwhile, neither Con O'Callaghan or Paul Mannion had scored in either of Dublin's previous group victories over Tyrone or Donegal.

"That's our model of play I guess," observed Mannion recently when it was put to him that his hugely-impressive defensive capabilities had staved off the threat of losing his starting spot to Costello this summer.

"People who are starting games have to do some kind of donkey work at times and then the lads that are coming on are going to take it home.

"When teams are tired there's an opportunity for lads coming on to really go at teams.

"Cormac is the perfect example of that."

Indeed it is difficult to envisage a more effective attacking substitute than Costello at a time in matches when opposition defences are fatigued, with his deft footwork, his innate positional sense and that ability to kick scores off either foot.

"I'm definitely more experienced," he admitted.

"We've come across a lot of different obstacles over the years."

Of course in a parallel universe, Cormac Costello is the pacey, goal-scoring forward the Dublin hurlers have been wailing out for.

On Saturday, he'll line out for Whitehall Colmcille in their Division 2 match with Naomh Fionbarra and as he admits "it's just unfortunate you can't do both" at inter-county level.

"I'll never say no, I'll never rule it out," he said about a possible code switch, "but at the moment I'm enjoying my football.

"I'm enjoying playing football and representing my county. So, for the moment, I think I'll kind of stick with the football.

"But you never know...I'm not as good as I used to be at hurling anyway, they mightn't want me..."

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