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O'Sullivan admits difficulty in shutting out talk of another easy Dublin win

Jim Gavin’s side are targeting their 11th provincial title in 12 years when they take on Westmeath on Sunday.

Cian O'Sullivan.
Cian O'Sullivan.
Image: Donall Farmer/INPHO

DELUSIONAL. THAT’S WHAT anyone predicting a Westmeath win against Dublin on Sunday will be labelled.

The bookies are convinced of the result (they have Jim Gavin’s side a staggering -15 points in the handicap betting and 1/100 to prevail), the experts are convinced of it, and the fans (even many of those travelling from Westmeath) are convinced of it.

This Leinster final feels more ceremonial than ever. It’s just a matter of turning up on the day, all suited and booted, exchange some pleasantries, and then await it being put in writing. It’s all about the afters.

But there’s always a chance the bride, or groom, can bottle it on the day.

And that’s something Dublin defender Cian O’Sullivan is acutely aware of.

While others have already turned their attention to how Jim Gavin’s side would match up against the likes of Tyrone, Donegal and Kerry further down the line, the Kilmacud Crokes man is adamant that’s not the case in the Dublin camp. And considering the level of sincerity he says it with, you can’t help but believe him.

He does admit, however, that it is impossible for the Dublin bubble to be impenetrable.

The incessant talk of legacies and multiple All-Ireland titles is bound to be heard. So finding a way to stay focused on the task at hand can be trickier than we would sometimes be led to believe.

“The difficult thing is not listening to friends and family,” O’Sullivan says.

“They’ll talk to you and they’ll say things to you about winning at the weekend. And you try and shut that out.

It is difficult, shutting away from newspapers, from social media and all that stuff.

“But the biggest hurdle is actually being conscious of that, that these guys are in a different space to us at the moment. We know the reality of what we need to do and that’s what matters.

“You don’t concern yourself with the bookies, the odds or anything. If you’re going down that road you’re on a completely different page. We try and cocoon ourselves and keep everything within the team bubble.”

O’Sullivan admits that some deal with the outside pressure better than others. And the key to staying focused and avoid reading into discussions from multiple avenues is knowing your limitations; how much you can digest without it altering your approach.

“There are some guys who can deal with it easily and there are some guys who can’t. There are some who can read the paper and subsequently throw all that stuff out and if they’re comfortable doing that, so be it,” O’Sullivan adds.

“But there are other guys who recognise that subconsciously that stuff will feed in. Everyone is different and it’s just about recognising what works and what doesn’t work.”

For the 28-year-old tax consultant, a quick change of direction usually does the trick.

“You might be at the water cooler and people are chatting to you. The easy approach I take is to try and change the subject right away, chat about something else, like Brexit.”

Stephen Cluxton lifts the Delaney Cup Stephen Cluxton raises the Delaney Cup after last year's Leinster final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Westmeath keep defying the logic that league form translates to the championship having secured a spot in the provincial final for the second successive year, the first time in the county’s history, despite suffering relegation in the past three seasons.

Having said that, O’Sullivan isn’t surprised to see the Lakesiders back in the provincial decider.

“By their own admission they were probably disappointed with their league campaign in getting relegated to Division 4 but they are a good side with some fantastic players — Kieran Martin, Paul Sharry, Callum McCormack.

“We’d be very familiar with these guys over the past number of years. And they’ve had lots of good underage teams as well so it’s not really a surprise to see that they’re in a Leinster final yet again.”

Cian O’Sullivan was speaking at the announcement that Sure is becoming the GAA’s first statistics partner.

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Alan Waldron

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