Cian O'Sullivan one of Dublin six who can join 'eight All-Irelands club' with victory over Mayo

Cian O'Sullivan has won seven All-Ireland winners' medals with Dublin. Pic Philip Walsh.
Cian O'Sullivan has won seven All-Ireland winners' medals with Dublin. Pic Philip Walsh.

VICTORY in Saturday’s All-Ireland final will mean that a group of Dublin footballers qualifies for membership of an exclusive, at present Kerry-only, club who’ve won eight Celtic Crosses.

Only Denis Moran, Páidí Ó Sé, Ger Power, Mikey Sheehy and Pat Spillane have reached that lofty mark but a half dozen Dubs - Stephen Cluxton, Michael Fitzsimons, James McCarthy, Philly McMahon, Kevin McManamon and Cian O'Sullivan - will join if the sky blues see off Mayo at the weekend.

Of those six, the first three have been ever-present and are certain starters on Saturday. Meanwhile, McMahon has made two substitute appearances (including an important role in the semi-final against Cavan), McManamon one and O’Sullivan hasn’t featured at all.

The absence of Kilamcud Croke’s defender O’Sullivan would leave a massive hole in most county teams but, such is the strength of Dublin’s panel, the three-time Allstar’s lack of game-time has made no discernible impact.

But he wants to make his mark on the campaign and, although injury meant he wasn’t included in the 26-man squad for the 15-point win over Cavan, O’Sullivan says he’ll be fully fit for the final.

“I just had a couple of niggly injuries that have held back me being available for selection,” he explained.

“But the body is feeling good now though, I trained fully this week and, yeah, I’m good to go.”

O’Sullivan is a parent now. Daughter Bonny will be “eight months in four days’ time” he explains with very impressive attention to detail. She is central to his thoughts now but his equally impressive haul of All-Ireland winners’ medals and the prospect of equalling the achievement of Spillane, Sheehy and O Se doesn’t come into his thinking.

“I honestly don’t think about it and even All-Irelands and other accolades that I’ve won in the past, they don’t really register because it’s not what the team is trying to do, we’re so involved in the team right now that your mind doesn’t even go there,” he says.

“I think probably when you finish playing and in 10 or 20 years’ time and you’re looking back over it and watching back old DVDs, and have your medals stored away somewhere, it’ll probably hit home at that stage. Right now, no, that’s the honest answer.”

Playing for Dublin was always the dream for him and winning with Dublin is still the prime motivation. He says that is the “secret sauce” that continues to drive on every man in the panel whether, like him, they’re a multiple champion or, like Sean Bugler, a relatively new face on the team.

“The way I’m feeling now about Saturday week, I’m extremely motivated and driven for this final and I guess that’s the secret sauce of the team, that we have that environment that brings out that motivation in everyone,” he says.

The environment he mentions has meant that the Dublin system has continued to operate smoothly no matter who is on the field or on the line. Jim Gavin (architect of the five in-a-row) has gone and many high-profile players have had their day but the Dubs march on.

“If you’re looking at it over a concerted period you’d be hopefully saying that the new replace the old and that it’s cyclical like that,” he says.

“Senior players do have a role for showing younger and new lads that come in the ropes but there’s nothing deliberate there, it just kind of happens naturally and they learn the values and standards of what’s required to be a Dublin footballer.

“The new guys come in after them and it’s just hand the jersey down to them. So that would be great to see for that kind of culture to live on and to exist.”

So has O’Sullivan ever had to take a younger lad who’s come into the panel but isn’t knuckling down to one side and explain exactly what being a Dublin footballer is all about?

“I don’t think so,” he answers.

“If you had to then people like that mightn’t survive very long. No, the guys that have come in are probably already somewhat conditioned that way because they wouldn’t have been brought in otherwise.”

When asked if Dublin’s run of success will continue ‘ad infinitum’ he counters matter-of-factly: “I don’t have a crystal ball” but he adds that it will come to an end at some point.

“There’s been a great turnover in the team over the last number of seasons,” he says.

“Will that last forever? I honestly don’t know. We’ve seen teams in the past being quite dominant in certain eras, with Kilkenny and Kerry and those teams didn’t last forever, it’ll probably be the same with this team but right now the focus is Saturday week and for all those types of questions it’s certainly something that I’m not thinking about or any of the lads in the team are thinking about, it’s the now that we’re focused on. We can reflect on those things after I guess.”