Con O'Callaghan returns for UCD's Sigerson semi against Ulster University
Electric Ireland Sigerson Cup semi-final: Ulster University v University College Dublin (Wednesday, 7pm, Inniskeen)
AS if facing one of the Dublin heavyweights hasn’t become enough of a challenge in recent Sigerson Cups, but Ulster University might have to plan for Con O’Callaghan on top of it all now.
The Cuala man was once more the catalyst for his club’s progression to the All-Ireland club hurling final, scoring 0-4 in their win over Liam Mellow’s on Saturday as they seek back-to-back titles.
But far from resting before the St Patrick’s Day decider, O’Callaghan has decided to throw his lot in with UCD in the hoping of adding a Sigerson Cup medal to his ever-burgeoning collection.
He has yet to feature with UCD but did act as water carrier last week as they overcame city rivals DCU in the quarter-final, though it remains to be seen how John Divilly will use tonight him.
O’Callaghan would walk on any team in Ireland but UCD have a significant wealth of attacking riches as it is. Conor McCarthy, one of five players remaining from their final win over DCU two years ago, and Laois’ Evan O’Carroll were to the fore last week, landing 0-10 between them.
With Kerry pair Barry O’Sullivan and Jack Barry pairing up formidably in the centre, and the likes of Antrim’s Peter Healy (who was excellent for his county on Sunday), Stephen Coen and Jimmy Feehan in defence, UCD will be keen to keen to repeat their comfortable 12-point victory at Jordanstown last year.
Mind you, Jack McCaffrey, Michael Fitzsimons, Paul Mannion and Colm Basquel would be considerable losses to any squad, as they are to the Dubliners from this time last year.
Ulster University have shown well so far, starting off by dethroning holders St Mary’s in a city derby of their own before overcoming a University Limerick side that imploded inside 15 minutes.
And yet as always, they will be judged to a higher standard because of the star-studded nature of their teamsheet. Theirs is now a 10-year famine and lest we forget, it had been double that time UCD had to wait to finally get over the line in 2016.
David Mulgrew may yet feature at some stage, although it remains an outside chance as he continues his recovery from a dislocated shoulder.
The versatile Ardboe man took part in some non-contact training with Tyrone last week and joined in with some of Ulster University’s session on Monday night, but if he is to play any part it would still likely be a very sparing one.
Frank Burns definitely remains sidelined after tearing ankle ligaments in Tyrone’s loss to Dublin, an injury that is likely to keep him out of the rest of the National League.
The Red Hand contingent will again be crucial for Paul Rouse’s side, with Michael McKernan, Ronan McNamee and Rory Brennan key men in defence, while Mark Bradley and the in-form Lee Brennan are among the dangermen up front.
Bradley has been playing well away from goal in their campaign to date than he is used to with Tyrone, operating as much more of a link man between midfield and half-forward, while Ryan McAnespie and Eoin McHugh carry a threat from the wings.
Niall Madine, who came on for Down in their win over Roscommon, offers them a physical presence on the edge of the square while Danny Tallon will be hopeful of regaining a starting spot after a good show off the bench against Limerick, though it is more likely that they will retain Daire Gallagher in a deeper role.
Burns and Mulgrew are significant absentees for UU but so many of them are playing with the anger of their own disappointing performance against UCD last year to balance that out a bit.
The sickening workrate of St Mary’s ultimately stood between UCD and this being an assault on three-in-a-row. Everything about Dublin is just becoming so hard to stop.