'I was 21... You were nearly apologising to be in a dressing room with the players that were there'

Johnny Doyle explains why Con O’Callaghan is not your average 21-year-old Gaelic footballer.

Image: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

FORMER KILDARE CAPTAIN Johnny Doyle was Con O’Callaghan’s age when he first broke into the Kildare senior ranks, and remains incredulous that the young Cuala forward possesses such confidence so early in his career.

O’Callaghan torched Doyle’s native county in this year’s Leinster final adding 12 points to Dublin’s total, with the 21-year-old having already pocketed All-Ireland Under-21, Senior and club medals during a remarkable start to what will surely transpire to be an illustrious career.

Doyle was wowed by his presence of mind during the opening exchanges of Sunday’s rather facile victory over Tyrone, and while admonishing the Ulster county’s defence or lack thereof on The42 GAA Show, lauded O’Callaghan for having the bottle to go it alone for his scorching finish past Niall Morgan.

“Con O’Callaghan waltzed through this defence that we all expected from Tyrone that just wasn’t there, and I think one of the commentators on the telly said, ‘It’s nearly game over at this stage,’ after five or six minutes, which is crazy stuff,” he said.

“How is Con O’Callaghan, number one, left at centre half-forward standing on his own? But number two he just waltzed in, went by the fullback as if he wasn’t there. I think it was Dean Rock who dragged him [Aidan McCrory] to one side, but I suppose the easy thing would have been to give it to Dean Rock – a bit like Andy Moran’s goal [vs Kerry], but he went and it was a bullet.

“It just set the tone. It nearly deflated the crowd, let alone the Tyrone players.”

O’Callaghan’s self-belief in spite of being a relative newcomer, Doyle explained, was a testament both to his character and the environment Jim Gavin has cultivated as Dublin manager, in which younger players are expected to thrive akin to the elder statesmen alongside them.

“It epitomises the confidence Dublin are playing with,” Doyle said.

“I was 21 when I came onto the Kildare team, and you were sitting in the corner kind of afraid to look around you in case… You know, you were nearly apologising to be in a dressing room with the players that were there.

But for him at that age to show such confidence – because the guy is only human, and we see the Dublin forwards that are on the bench, all mad to get in ahead of him – it shows a huge maturity and confidence to take it on, to throw that little dummy, to drops the hips and even to rip the net out of it the way he did. A player on top of his game.

Doyle dissected both All-Ireland semi-finals on The GAA Show, which you can watch back below.

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