Cian O’Sullivan’s return to fitness a major fillip for Gavin and Dublin

Vastly experienced and decorated defender ready for another busy summer campaign

Cian O’Sullivan in action against Mayo: he is one of only three players – James McCarthy and Stephen Cluxton are the others – to have started all seven of Dublin’s All-Ireland finals across the decade (including the 2016 replay). Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Cian O’Sullivan in action against Mayo: he is one of only three players – James McCarthy and Stephen Cluxton are the others – to have started all seven of Dublin’s All-Ireland finals across the decade (including the 2016 replay). Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

For Cian O’Sullivan, last Saturday’s win over Mayo was a landmark of sorts.

The 30-year-old defender hadn’t played a full game for Dublin since last July’s Super-8 game against Tyrone in Healy Park so he was relieved to get through the 80-odd minutes in Croke Park without any old niggles tugging at his sleeve. History has told him they will be along soon enough.

He returned to full training with the Dublin panel a few weeks later than most of his team-mates, a knock-on from the later than usual finish to 2018. Kilmacud Crokes’ run to the Leinster final meant he didn’t get around to ironing out the issues that saw him substituted early in each the last three games of Dublin’s All-Ireland win.

O’Sullivan is one of only three players – James McCarthy and Stephen Cluxton are the others – to have started all seven of Dublin’s All-Ireland finals across the decade (including the 2016 replay). But the niggles are with him always and curtailed his final last year after 26 minutes.

“Yeah, just the usual stuff with me,” O’Sullivan says.

“Lower back and hamstrings. It was a long season for me last year. We played up until the latter part of the year with the club and I probably didn’t get the sort of break I would have needed.

“ In the semi-final and final, I picked up two little knocks that I needed a few weeks to address and rehab but I was straight back into the club campaign. And I didn’t really get a chance to do it. So I just took a few weeks at the start of the year to do it.

“There’s no magical cure, it’s just my biological make-up. I’m just susceptible to soft-tissue injuries, trying to manage the load as best I possibly can. Injuries are an unfortunate reality of the game – I’m not the only guy who gets them. I just count myself very lucky that come the last game of the year, the body has been right and I’ve been available for selection.

“That could just as easily not have been the case. It was touch and go for one or two of the years but thankfully I pulled through and was able to start. I count myself very lucky on that because given my injury profile, I could very easily have missed one of those finals.”

The win over Mayo quelled any panic talk about their league interest being over early this time around. At the same time though, 2019 is not going to be about whether they retain their spring title.

O’Sullivan was promoting a health initiative for the team sponsors yesterday and found himself mentioning the five-in-a-row without even being asked about it. September is a long time away and no matter how tight they try to seal the bubble, it’s something that will be there constantly in the daily lives of the Dublin players.

Dangerous territory

“Thinking of the legacy the team is creating is just not something that as players we get caught up in,” O’Sullivan says. “These are distractions and if you let yourself get distracted by talk about playing in Croke Park or talk of the five-in-a-row or legacy or anything like that, you’re just stepping into dangerous territory.

“You just try and focus on going to training and getting the most out of this squad, rocking up to the games and giving the best performances we can. We don’t focus on the stuff that’s happening out and around the squad or what anyone is saying about us – good, bad or indifferent.

“The reality we try to live within is that bubble of the players and management and try to ignore any potential distractions from the outside. People are going to say it and mention it to you and nobody is coming from a bad place when they’re doing it. But it’s just a case of being able to change the topic and steer off it and to try to tell yourself, ‘Right, that’s a potential distraction there – autocorrect and focus back on what’s important’.

“And right now, what’s important to me is we have training tonight and then we’re playing a game against Roscommon on Sunday, a game where we need to get another two points. We had a really good strong performance against Mayo on Saturday night and if we can get another one like that and get consistency, that’s all we’re bothered with.

And as for a go-to topic of conversation, to warn people off five-in-a-row chat?

“Brexit, probably at this stage.”

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