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Dublin: 13 °C Tuesday 23 October, 2018
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Con O'Callaghan's Sigerson involvement with UCD unclear as he juggles Cuala commitments

O’Callaghan carried the water for UCD for their win over Maynooth yesterday.

UCD LINED OUT without arguably their two best players in the opening round of the Sigerson Cup, but still ran out comfortable 12-point winners over Maynooth University yesterday.

UCD players keep warm at half-time 23/1/2018 Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

2015 Footballer of the Year Jack McCaffrey will miss the entire competition as he works his way back from a cruciate injury, while reigning Young Footballer of the Year Con O’Callaghan is currently unavailable due to his hurling commitments with Cuala.

“Jack has been captain the last few years,” said UCD boss John Divilly after the 2-15 to 1-6 victory.

“While Stephen Coen is the on-field captain with Conor McCarthy, Jack is five years in the college. They’re all his buddies so he’s going to be out here helping out and shouting on the sideline, as is Con.

“Con has the hurling coming up with Cuala so that’s his priority at the moment,” he explained.

“Liam Silke played for Corofin on Sunday so it’s a lot to ask him tog out two days later. We just have to mind these guys.”

O’Callaghan wasn’t togged out but he did carry the water for UCD in Maynooth and it’s unclear whether he’ll play any part in their Sigerson campaign.

Cuala face Liam Mellows in the All-Ireland semi-final on 10 February, and O’Callaghan won’t see any action with UCD before then. Should UCD make it that far, the Sigerson Cup semi-final (13 February) and final (17 February) take place the week after the Liam Mellows game.

If Cuala are unexpectedly knocked out, it would free up O’Callaghan to line out with UCD, but if they secure an All-Ireland final spot, then a conversation will have to take place between Mattie Kenny, Divilly and the player himself regarding his availability.

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

O’Callaghan opted out of Divilly’s squad last year due to time constraints, as he had to juggle roles with both the Dublin U21 footballers and Cuala hurlers last spring.

After an incredible 2017 where he won Dublin, Leinster and All-Ireland club titles with Cuala, Leinster and All-Ireland crowns with both Dublin U21s and seniors, O’Callaghan was asked how he could top that in 2018.

“(Not having U21) makes it a bit easier,” he said after their provincial decider win over Kilcormac/Killoughey last December. “I’ll be off with UCD in the football maybe, I don’t know, we’ll play it be ear and see what happens.”

He clearly had his eye on winning a third-level title with his college to add another medal to his sizeable haul.

Fortunately for UCD, they didn’t miss the young forward against Maynooth. Much of that was down to the brilliance of attackers Conor McCarthy and Eoin Lowry.

McCarthy, the Monaghan ace who bagged three points off the bench in last year’s All-Ireland quarter-final against Dublin, appears primed to take his game to another level with the Farney in 2018.

He scored 0-4, including a pair of frees, and pulled the strings with some style from centre-forward. McCarthy went down late on with an injury, but Divilly confirmed it was nothing serious.

“He was fine, he just got a bit of cramp. He hadn’t played much football before Christmas. That’s his first game for us, he hadn’t played because of a bit of fatigue before Christmas. He needed to rest up. These guys are good footballers, we just need to let them at it.”

Conor McCarthy 23/1/2018 Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Laois corner-forward Eoin Lowry, a Sigerson winner with UCD in 2016, featured in a few league games for the O’Moore County last year but failed to make a championship appearance.

He has been part of their O’Byrne Cup panel under new boss John Sugrue, and looks to be one of the brightest talents in the county. He bagged 1-7, including a brilliant individual first-half goal, to light up this Round 1 game.

“In fairness to the guys, they’re a good bunch, they’re experienced and level-headed,” Divilly continued. “They just went out and played what they had in front of them.

“They’re all buddies in college, that’s the beauty of this competition and hopefully it will survive because it’s a players-driven competition.

“The best of upcoming talent are playing there, there’s Eoin Murchan playing today on Daniel Flynn, hopefully he might get a start with Dublin at the weekend. Paddy O’Connor is a second year for us playing with Sligo.

“You’ve a lot of young talent coming that we get to see before some of ye guys in the press get to see them.”

Johnny Doyle 23/1/2018 Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Former All-Star Johnny Doyle was in charge of Maynooth, and he was naturally disappointed with the way their season ended.

“You can come up with all the strength and conditioning training and all that, at the end of the day it’s about kicking the ball over the bar and we couldn’t do it. That’s what cost us in the end. So we’ve no excuses.”

Doyle’s side had 13 shots on goal in the first-half, hitting 10 wides and dropping two short to leave them with a 1-8 to 0-1 hill to climb at half-time.

“It was always going to be an uphill battle in the second-half,” he said.

“You’re here to win and go to that dark place to battle hard but we were outworked all over the field. That’s the most disappointing thing.”

UCD advance to the quarter-finals which are scheduled to take place on 6/7 February.

The42 has just published its first book, Behind The Lines, a collection of some of the year’s best sports stories. Pick up your copy in Eason’s, or order it here today (€10):

Goals from Kerry’s Barry and Laois forward Lowry help UCD claim 12-point Sigerson Cup win

‘We can’t claim on the one hand to be amateur and on the other throw a blind eye to this’

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Kevin O'Brien

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