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'You have to match that level every day' - Dublin star eager to continue stellar form

Eoghan O’Donnell had a brilliant league campaign at full-back.

EOGHAN O’DONNELL’S RECENT form has been lauded far and wide.

Bord Gáis Energy GAA Announcement Dublin star Eoghan O'Donnell at today's Bord Gáis Energy GAA Announcement. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

The Dublin full-back led his defence with distinction through a National Hurling League campaign which saw them exit at the semi-final stage after a three-point loss to eventual champions Limerick.

O’Donnell was immense at the back for Mattie Kenny’s side that day though, the Whitehall Colmcille defender’s performance showing great promise for the summer ahead.

Kilkenny legends JJ Delaney, Eddie Brennan and Jackie Tyrrell were three of many who heaped praise on the Dublin star afterwards, while Waterford great John Mullane labelled him as ‘the best full-back in the country’ on Independent.ie’s GAA podcast.

“It’s always nice to hear Dublin in the media, when it’s positive it’s always great,” he said at the Bord Gáis Energy GAA Announcement in Croke Park today.

“John Mullane is obviously a legend of the game so it’s great to hear. But going out the next day, it doesn’t stand for an awful lot when I’m playing against Kilkenny in the championship.

jt Source: Jackie Tyrrell Twitter.

eddie Source: Eddie Brennan Twitter.

“You have to block as much of it out as you can because it invites pressure onto you for the next day. The lads would never be short of pulling you up on things, you’re not getting a big head in our camp!

“You just have to keep the head down in training and try to match that level every day.”

While others may see his game as on another level this year, O’Donnell is unsure. He’d rather deflect praise to those around him, and stay out of the spotlight.

“I don’t know if I’ve stepped it up. I think our team has been working very hard, and when you have the players around you, it makes my job a lot easier.

“It’s a collective effort. Once everyone is on form, it brings everyone’s performance up and it’s not an individual thing.

“I’m around quite a while at this stage, I think this is my sixth year. You have to step up and be one of the more older fellas on the team. It’s funny saying that at 23 but it’s the way the game has gone. You just have to step up and do whatever you can for the team.

“That’s what I’ve been trying to do lately.”

Well, he’s done so pretty well.

Eoghan OÕDonnell On the run against Tipperary. Source: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

Reflecting on that last-four clash against Limerick, O’Donnell says that his side learned plenty from it.

While they came in for some criticism for how they set up and the tactics they implemented, he chooses to ignore that and focus on the fact that Dublin made a real game of it. 

“We learned, for one, that we can compete with the top teams,” he continues. “Limerick are probably the standard-bearers at the moment after winning the league. 

“We learned a lot in terms of our own formation and in terms of things that we needed to do — there was probably a 10-minute spell where we needed to push on in the second-half and we didn’t, so we’ll take that into advisement going forward. 

“But Limerick are a top quality team so it’s great to be able to pit yourself against them so early.” 

All in all, he’s pleased with the Sky Blues’ league campaign and it’s one he looks back on positively. There’s more confidence in the camp, he says, and lads are enjoying their hurling with a smile on their face. 

“It was a positive league campaign. The point of the league and what every manager wants to do is try to get players experienced and get as many players playing as possible. 

John Hetherton and Eoghan OÕDonnell celebrate winning Celebrating that win with John Hetherton. Source: Tom O'Hanlon/INPHO

“I think in the end we had 32 players playing which is obviously hugely positive. And then getting the two extra games against the 1A teams was positive as well because you want to match yourself against the top teams and see how you fare. 

“Overall it was a very positive league campaign and there’s a lot to learn from it.”

A highlight, perhaps, was a long-awaited win against Tipperary in Thurles.

“You do have to enjoy those occasions,” he smiles. “It was 1946 since Dublin went down there and won.

“It was a case of celebrating it for the evening, parking it and moving on from that. You do have to enjoy those matches because the highs in sport make up for the lows.

“But the end of the day, you have to remember that it was the league. Come championship; May, June, August; it’s not going to stand for much. We have to take the learnings from it and implement them.”

The 23-year-old is keen to move forward towards the business end of the season and flourish more and more with the ‘excellent’ Kenny at the helm.

He’s eager to park everything that’s gone before and concentrate on the next task at hand — the Cats in their Leinster championship opener.

“We’re just trying to focus on this year as much as we can. We’ll take faith that we were competitive with most teams in the league this year and we hope to do the same with Kilkenny.

Bord Gáis Energy GAA Announcement O'Donnell and Seamus Callanan at today's launch. Source: David Fitzgerald/SPORTSFILE

“They are a different beast and Brian Cody is well able to get them primed and ready. It will be a great challenge going down to Nowlan Park. The momentum, if we can pull a win out of the bag there, is massive going forward.”

First though, his attention switches to the club scene. Whitehall are in action in a local derby this weekend against Setanta so he’s really looking forward to that one.

The club month has thrown up mixed opinions across the board, but O’Donnell is a big fan of it. Letting county take a back seat, of sorts, is nice.

“It’s a great change of pace,” he concludes. “Club is where you come from so it’s always great to be back playing with them.

“When you have a whole month designated to it you can really get in and focus on it and give it your full attention, rather than being pulled and dragged everywhere.

“You can kind of fall between two gaps. It’s nice to have the full month to really concentrate on it.”

***

Bord Gáis Energy has today announced the extension of its sponsorship of the GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Championship guaranteeing three more years of unmissable GAA rewards for its customers, including #HurlingToTheCore training camps. For more information, see: bordgaisenergyrewards.ie

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Emma Duffy

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