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Dublin: 11 °C Saturday 17 November, 2018

'He's a very grounded young lad, I think he just takes one challenge at a time' - Con's dual challenge

After winning an All-Ireland club hurling title, a Leinster U21 final is next up.

Con O’Callaghan Con O'Callaghan in action for Dublin in last week's Leinster U21 semi-final Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

CON O’CALLAGHAN HAS blazed a scoring trail on two fronts over the past year.

Over the course of two EirGrid U21 football campaigns, he’s been to the fore for Dublin and juggled that with his exploits for Cuala’s hurlers over the winter as they marched on to All-Ireland glory on St Patrick’s Day.

Con O’Callaghan scoring returns

Dublin U21 Football 2016

  • Leinster quarter-final – 1-7 v Meath
  • Leinster semi-final – 0-5 v Laois
  • Leinster final – 1-7 v Kildare
  • All-Ireland semi-final – 1-5 v Mayo

Dublin U21 Football 2017

  • Leinster quarter-final – 0-5 v Westmeath
  • Leinster semi-final – 2-5 v Longford

Cuala 2016-17

  • Leinster quarter-final – 4-3 v Borris-Kilcotton
  • Leinster semi-final – 1-3 v St Mullins
  • Leinster final – 1-4 v O’Loughlin Gaels
  • All-Ireland semi-final – 1-3 v Slaughtneil
  • All-Ireland final – 0-2 v Ballyea

As Cuala manager Mattie Kenny has been able to observe O’Callaghan’s exploits as he slipped seamlessly from an All-Ireland hurling decider on 17 March to a Leinster U21 semi-final date last Wednesday night.

“He played the All-Ireland final on the 17th, then the Leinster U21 last week. I’d say after Paddy’s Day, he enjoyed that experience for a day or two and then had to change his focus and go back to the U21′s.

“He made a very big contribution. I don’t think players really sit down and plan it to the level we think about. It’s just the next game for him.

“He’s a very grounded young lad, I think he just takes one challenge at a time.

“He prepares well for games, has himself in very good physical and mental shape. He seems to be able to handle that very well.”

With football commanding most of his interest last summer as part of Jim Gavin’s senior squad, O’Callaghan didn’t get the chance to unleash his hurling talents until the end of the season.

When he became available, Cuala took full advantage.

Con O'Callaghan scores a goal despite the tackle of Jim Fitzpatrick Con O'Callaghan fires home a goal for Cuala against Borris-Kilcotton. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

“He finished Dublin footballers in September and probably Cuala footballers the end of October,” says Kenny.

“In the last four months he’s concentrated on hurling. That gave him the opportunity to have a sliotar in his hand for a greater percentage of the time.

“He is a very talented sportsman but that allowed him to really concentrate on fine-tuning his skills. As every week was going by you could see his touch was getting sharper all the time.”

Jack Browne with Con O’Callaghan Cuala's Con O'Callaghan with Ballyea's Jack Browne Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

At inter-county level, Kenny knows that O’Callaghan’s heart currently lies with Dublin football. There’s a chance to land a Leinster U21 medal tonight and then he’ll have the aim to push on at senior level.

“There’s a lot of potential there,” said Kenny.

“Hopefully in the coming seasons, we might get the opportunity to see him hurling for Dublin. But I know at the moment, his focus is on the All-Ireland U21 football championship for Dublin and he’s keen to get back into the senior football setup.

“He’s an ambitious young guy. I think short term his focus is on trying to make an impact on U21 and then at senior level with Jim Gavin.”

Source: The42 GAA/SoundCloud

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Fintan O'Toole

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