Cian O’Callaghan: Dublin have nothing to lose against Tipp
Optimistic defender hoping to make amends for hammering inflicted in league clash
Dublin defender Cian O’Callaghan: believes all the pressure will be on Tipperary in the knockout qualifier at Semple Stadium. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Immortality may not beckon, but it’s certainly the chance to beat the All-Ireland champions and reignite Dublin’s hurling season in the process – which is why Cian O’Callaghan believes Saturday evening’s knockout qualifier against Tipperary is the perfect draw.
He had no complaints about having to play at Semple Stadium either. “We’re happy enough to play wherever. Teams would say the same thing about Dublin in Croke Park, that it’s a home venue. I know a lot of the Munster teams have to go to Thurles the whole time so it is just another challenge.
“All the pressure is on them,” says O’Callaghan with no hint of fear. “Nobody gives us a chance, there’s nothing to lose for us, so just go out, and express yourself.
“We give ourselves a chance, but I know the media gives us no chance, people in Tipp will be giving us no chance, so it’s a good way to be going into a match.
“We knew it was going to be one of the three All-Ireland semi-finalists from last year (Kilkenny drew Waterford in the other qualifier), so it didn’t really matter who we got. Obviously, All-Ireland champions last year, it’s going to be huge a challenge, but we’re looking forward to it, as well.
“Look at Cork and Wexford, who last year we were quite close too, and they’re going quite well at the moment, so I think hurling is a game that things can change very quickly. So we feel confident we can give a good display against Tipp, hopefully come out with a win.”
Indeed Dublin’s motivations are many – not least to make some amends for the hammering Tipp inflicted on them during the league, but also their relegation from division 1A, and tame exit in the Leinster championship against Galway.
However O’Callaghan, speaking at Parnell Park at the launch of AIG’s latest travel insurance offering, rejects the notion Dublin are also playing for manager Ger Cunningham, who has seen several key players defect from the panel in recent seasons.
“I suppose he will be under pressure [if they lose],” says the Dublin defender, “but we just want to go out as a team and do our best. If you’re thinking about anything except Saturday then you’re probably playing the wrong sport, or you shouldn’t be playing at all. We’re playing for each other, we’re playing for the county jersey, as every county hurler should be.
“There is no bigger challenge than playing Tipp. When you’re a young lad, the dream is to play the All-Ireland champions, to play big matches. And there are a lot of lads in the Dublin camp who have that attitude, have that mindset. They want to see, one-on-one, are you better than the man you are marking. And as a unit can you beat the best team in the country?
“It was good to get the win over Laois at the weekend, get a bit of momentum, but you want to challenge yourself against the best teams. Training has been going well since and hopefully we can redeem ourselves a small bit.”
Redemption certainly beckons if Dublin can pull this one off; throw-in at Semple Stadium is 5pm.