O’Callaghan hopes to continue a great year by popping Cork bubble
Experienced forward not getting carried away as he prepares for Rebel challenge
David O’Callaghan of Dublin: “The performance the next day is going to have to go up again because it’s an All-Ireland semi-final.” Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Time moves quickly and having hurled for five successive weekends Dublin have now nearly concluded a five-week break before Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Cork.
Having beaten Kilkenny for the first time in more than 70 years in the Leinster semi-final, it was nonetheless easy to maintain focus going into the final, according to David O’Callaghan, whose resurgent displays in the full-forward line have been a major factor in the team’s first provincial title since 1961.
“We’d been in the Leinster final before and we hadn’t won one. It wasn’t too hard, to be honest with you.
“Obviously it was great to get the win against Kilkenny but we were all very much aware very quickly that we had a Leinster final.
“We didn’t have time really to get carried away. We’ve had good and bad experiences so there’s a good bit of maturity in the group.
“You’re looking towards the next game and the next challenge at inter-county level because, with the way that it’s gone, teams are all capable of beating one another.
“So you just get ready for the next game and try to prepare as best as you can for that.”
For O’Callaghan, the provincial final was a personal triumph, as he hit early scores to settle the team and ended up with four points from play.
“To be honest, I’m just enjoying my hurling,” he says. “Maybe as you get a bit older you start to appreciate things and I’m just trying to help out the whole squad and make whatever contribution I can.
“I don’t know about peaks and stuff but ultimately the farther you go in a championship you’re going to have to play better and better.
“The performance the next day is going to have to go up again because it’s an All-Ireland semi-final.”
The 12 months have been a strange period for the team. After last year’s massive disappointment in sliding out of Division One A of the league and getting annihilated by Kilkenny in the championship and losing a good lead to Clare in the qualifiers there was considerable danger Anthony Daly had taken the team as far as they could go. But the manager freshened up his backroom team, introducing amongst others, former Dublin player Shane Martin and Clare All Star Tony Griffin.
“Ah, yeah,” says O’Callaghan, “I hurled with Shane when he was hurling for Dublin. He was a hugely talented player as well.
“When Shane came in he put his stamp on things and the lads would have huge respect for him as well because he soldiered for Dublin over the years.
“Tony Griffin came in as well and he’s obviously an interesting character. He puts a different slant on things and he’s a good man to just have a chat with.
“ He’s an interesting guy.
“Anthony, in fairness, brought these lads in and they’ve definitely added to the whole thing.”
Yet, having negotiated a very tricky promotion campaign, holding off the challenge of the now Munster champions Limerick, Dublin flopped in the semi-final against Tipperary.
An intensive training trip to Bere Island in the days before that match has been held up as the reason for the below-par performance and although O’Callaghan is dubious about any mental impact of the camp he concedes it had an impact.
“Maybe not in the head – maybe in the legs a bit. The management laid out the plans and we just go with the plans. Maybe we were a bit heavy-legged on the day, I don’t know, but we obviously didn’t perform that day to the level we could. That’s what we’ve been looking at all year, getting the performances.”
In five days, performance will determine whether Dublin reach their first All-Ireland senior final in over 50 years.