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Dublin: 13 °C Wednesday 19 September, 2018
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Con O'Callaghan scored 15-63 this year, but the Cuala manager says he'll only get better

O’Callaghan’s exploits are testing the bounds of reason.

CON O’CALLAGHAN JUST completed the kind of year that doesn’t feel real.

Cuala's Con O'Callaghan signs autographs Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

On Sunday, Cuala retained their Leinster club hurling crown, providing the young star with this seventh title of 2017 between hurling and football.

It’s hard to tell what’s the most impressive aspect of O’Callaghan’s year: his command of both codes, his remarkable ability to remain injury-free, his stunning goalscoring exploits or the fact that he’s a key forward in the most dominant Gaelic football team of all-time and the finest club hurling side in the country.

O’Callaghan’s performances are testing the bounds of reason. He played 22 championship games across both codes and all grades in 2017, losing just one – a Dublin senior football quarter-final to St Jude’s.

Otherwise, he’s won Dublin, Leinster and All-Ireland club titles with Cuala, a Leinster and an All-Ireland with Dublin U21s plus Leinster and All-Ireland senior medals with Dublin. He scored 15-63 in the championship across both codes, while providing plenty of scores for others including assists for both goals in the All-Ireland club final win over Ballyea.

Con O’Callaghan scores
Cuala senior hurling: 8-17 in 9 games
Cuala senior football: 2-8 in 2 games
Dublin U21 football: 3-18 in 5 games
Dublin senior football: 2-20 in 6 games
Total: 15-63 in 22 games (W 21, L 1)

He’s won individual honours too, with a football All-Star and Young Footballer of the Year rounding off the most incredible campaign.

Con O'Callaghan with Colm Boyle Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

It should be no surprise then that when he looks ahead to 2018, O’Callaghan is eyeing up a possible Sigerson Cup campaign with the UCD.

He opted out of John Divily’s squad this year due to the constraints on his time, but the lack of U21 football next year might open a gap for O’Callaghan to fit the college side into his busy schedule.

“It (not having U21) makes it a bit easier,” he said. “I’ll be off with UCD in the football maybe, I don’t know, we’ll play it be ear and see what happens.

“It feels like it hasn’t stopped since last year. It’s just gone straight in from March, we’ve been training the ​whole time. It took us a while to get back up to speed but we’re just delighted to get back here and to win.

“When you keep winning you’re fine, the body doesn’t feel it too much. I hope we have a couple of weeks off. We’re going off with the footballers on holidays in a couple of weeks so we’ll get a bit of a break.”

Con O'Callaghan with Enda Grogan Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

When O’Callaghan was rising up through the underage ranks in Cuala, some of the club’s senior players referred to him as ‘The Answer’ such was his obvious star quality.

He’s delivered on his potential to become one of the most frightening dual talents the GAA has witnessed in recent times.

“Obviously I don’t like speaking about individual players too much but Con is an exceptional sports guy, an exceptional hurler and an exceptional footballer,” his manager Mattie Kenny said after Sunday’s win over Kilcormac/Killoughey.

“He’s after having an exceptional year. He’s a very, very grounded young lad, he’s played a number of matches. He’s in peak physical condition. From a hurling point of view we only have to work on the skills of the game with him so he doesn’t have to do any physical training as such.

“I think when they’re talking about physical miles on the clock and that sort of thing, it’s the training, training, training really that can get to you. We’re duty bound to keep him fresh.”

Colum Sheanon and Con O'Callaghan dejected after the game O'Callaghan after the only game he lost in 2017 Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Worryingly for the rest of the country, Kenny believes O’Callaghan’s best years are still ahead of him.

“As a player, if you think you’ve arrived then you’re dead in the water, aren’t you? Con, I’m sure, every day he goes out, every day he gets up, he’s going to see what he can do to improve himself.

Kenny continued: “The guy is only 21 years of age, he’s only a young lad really yet. He’s got six, seven or eight years at his peak in front of him, up until his late 20s.

“At that time, every day he plays, whether it’s in football or hurling, he’s going to be gaining experience, coming up against different situations, different markers, and he’ll be figuring out ways of how to work around that. So can he improve? Yes, of course he can.”

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Kevin O'Brien

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