GAA | 4 days ago
We need to talk about Con O'Callaghan
Lord help us

You cannot underestimate the scale of what this man is doing.

Perhaps the biggest indicator of the achievements of Con O'Callaghan this season lie in the performance of Bernard Brogan on Sunday.

When Dean Rock was shown the line having been black carded early in the game in the Leinster final, the 2010 footballer of the year came off the bench and it was plain for all to see that he was absolutely chomping at the bit.

He was snapping around ferociously, winning tough ball and punishing Kildare with sheer ruthlessness because it's almost an insult to a man of his stature and a player of his skill to be condemned to the substitutes. So Brogan went about proving his own point, kicking five scores to put his hands firmly in front of Jim Gavin's face to say, "don't you dare forget about me".

Then you consider why Brogan has been condemned to that fate in the first place and the answer lies in a 21-year-old.

Con O'Callaghan hasn't just broken onto what is almost certainly the greatest Dublin team of all time. He hasn't just grown comfortable in a side that went on and smashed a ridiculous record to claim a seventh Leinster title in succession. No, he's absolutely starring on that history-making outfit and, when some of his team mates were claiming a 13th provincial gong, he was only appearing in his first final but he bossed the game anyway and won man of the match at the end of it all.

He was asked on The Sunday Game on two different occasions - once straight after the match on the pitch and another for his man of the match interview - about the enormity of what he is doing and he genuinely didn't seem to get the question. Or just didn't really care about it.

You see, for players like this, they're not bothered about occasions or any of that. They don't feel pressure and they probably don't even understand where you're coming from when you ask them how they dealt with the responsibility and the nerves - this is just what they bloody do. This is what they were born to do and Con O'Callaghan, if it's football or hurling, was put on this earth to show everyone else how it was done.

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By the time he was interviewed a second time in the tunnel, he had gathered himself enough to offer some kind of response to the reality of what he is doing, even if he still seemed unfazed.

"It's a privilege to be out there playing with boys you've been watching the last few years," he told RTÉ, reminding everyone that he was only 15 during the 2011 success.

What he's doing is no big shake to him though.

This is a man who guided his club to All-Ireland hurling success in March past there. He was rattling up scores like they were going out of fashion throughout that whole campaign.

He won the under-21 All-Ireland football championship with Dublin. He captained the minors to glory in his day too.

He is a leader of men and he's a man for the big stage so of course you can go right ahead and slot him in for his first Leinster final and he'll go on and kick 12 points like it was nothing out of the ordinary.

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You can send Dean Rock to the changing room and he'll think nothing of assuming free-taking duties. Six set pieces O'Callaghan nailed. Six from six.

Left foot, right foot, he terrorised Kildare from open play too with freakish economy. Six points O'Callaghan hit from play. Six from six.

He set up James McCarthy's goal - drawing the two tackles and exposing shit defending with consummate ease like the best players do. He burrowed his way out of trouble, he took men on like they weren't even pests and his balance - Christ, his balance - his ability to spin and pull back and pick out runners when he has to makes him virtually unmarkable in Croke Park when Dublin are in this kind of form.

This kid is in his first season with the All-Ireland champions and he's already playing like a leader. He's already overtaken boys who've been banging down the first team door with savage aggression for years now and he's keeping Bernard Brogan and all his manic hunger out of the side at the minute too.

He's chasing after every ball like it could be his last - even when they're his first - but he's taking care of every ball too with the gentle touch of a loving father protecting his offspring. He gives nothing away, he gives nothing up.

But don't ask him why or how he's doing it.

This is just what he does. This is just what Con O'Callaghan was born to do.

Check out the latest GAA Hour as Colm Parkinson, Conán Doherty and Steven McDonnell preview the weekend's Championship action. Listen below or subscribe here on iTunes.


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