Con O’Callaghan: ‘I am blessed to be playing with so many good players, lads that I looked up to’

FIVE ALL-IRELAND senior medals in the pocket now for Con O’Callaghan and his influence on Dublin’s run of success shows no signs of abating.

Saturday saw him once again hit the net in a critical game for Dublin, slapping in the second goal of their win against Mayo.

Just like he did against Tyrone and Mayo in 2017, Galway in 2018, and Mayo twice in 2019, O’Callaghan raised a green flag when it mattered most.

But reflecting on his individual input is overtaken for the Cuala man by his appreciation of the group he plays with.

“We are very much aware of the lucky and privileged position we are in. And it’s something that we do regularly talk about in our bunker in DCU, or wherever we train. 

“I love playing and I am blessed to be playing with so many good players, lads that I looked up to. To be playing with Stephen Cluxton, James McCarthy, even Mick Fitz(simons) from my own club. It’s something I cherish and I know the lads do inside.

“We also have a really, really strong connection and bond within the team.”

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They drew on that sense of unity to manage their way through the first half on Saturday, Mayo posing the fiercest challenge Dublin had faced in 2020.

“It’s something that always happens with Mayo,” admits O’Callaghan.

“They bring such a fierce intensity. It’s a different story speaking about it and actually being out there.

“You can review all the tapes that you want and say there are goal opportunities but when you are in the white heat of battle, and someone is facing you down, putting you under pressure, getting contact on you, it’s much different.

“You are forced to make mistakes and that’s something they do really well. We struggled to come to grips with that early on.”

Dublin responded in the manner that they always do and found a route to success. They got their hands on Sam Maguire after a volatile season as O’Callaghan acknowledged.

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Con O’Callaghan scores his side’s second goal against Mayo.

Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“Even when we came back, when we were allowed to train in the little pods, I know a lot of lads were a little bit hesitant for their own health and stuff and their loved ones’ health.

“And even when you have that time off, some people were kind of thinking through things and maybe some people lost a bit of motivation because there is no end line in sight. 

“But definitely then it started to grow that bond again, here’s a date we are going to be playing this date. It’s winter football. So what? That kind of bond and motivation and momentum starts to build and once it builds, it’s something powerful.

“I wasn’t able to see my closest friends, some of my brothers and my sister had moved out of the house. To be able to play and train two and three times a week, they really are your brothers, your family, the backroom staff.

“We do recognise that we are in a really, really privileged position. We were really grateful for that and it’s something we definitely touched on a lot.”

Saturday’s win in a largely deserted Croke Park was unusual but the absence of a packed house was not something on O’Callaghan’s mind once the action was underway.

“Once you get into the game you kind of get lost in the game. The warm-up is strange, you are coming out to that same music and there are no cheers, there is no atmosphere, there is no nothing.

“As soon as the ball is thrown in, you really do get lost in your own performance and the team’s performance, what is working, what is not working.

“It is a little bit different but once you get into the thick of it, you are just lost in it. Fear and flow, it’s a good way to be.”

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