Dubs need Con O'Callaghan to get better of Kerry says Ger Brennan
DUBLIN cannot afford to be without powerhouse forward Con O’Callaghan against Kerry – especially if David Clifford shakes off his own injury woes to lead the Kingdom attack in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final.
That is the view of former Dublin defender Ger Brennan as Sky Blues boss Dessie Farrell sweats on the fitness of O’Callaghan.
The Cuala ace missed the entire National League campaign with a lower leg injury but returned in emphatic fashion once Championship got under way, plundering 2-12 across games against Wexford, Meath and Kildare as Dublin defended their Leinster crown.
However, injury ruled O’Callaghan out of the All-Ireland quarter-final win over Cork, with suggestions he is struggling to make it for Sunday’s showdown against old foes Kerry too.
The talismanic Clifford, meanwhile, missed the Kingdom’s Munster final victory over Cork and jarred his ankle early on as Jack O’Connor’s men negotiated a way past Mayo in the last eight. Despite appearing in considerable discomfort shortly after, Clifford still played the majority of the game – bagging a crucial first half goal with a typically unerring finish.
And what condition that deadly pair are in by the time the ball is thrown in on Sunday will go a long way to deciding he runs out against the winners of Derry v Kerry in the July 24 decider, believes Brennan.
“I’m probably making a bold statement here, but if Con isn’t playing and David Clifford is playing then I don’t think we will have enough to win,” said the two-time All-Ireland winner, speaking at an Electric Ireland event looking ahead to tomorrow's All-Ireland minor final between Galway and Mayo at Dr Hyde Park.
“I think Con makes our forward line tick. He attracts so many opposition defenders, which actually allows the other forwards - in particular Cormac Costello - to flourish.
“We’ve all watched matches over the years where one of your star players isn’t playing, he’s injured, and the next guy up is flying it, but as soon as the star player comes back that next guy can go into his shell a bit. But that’s not the case with Cormac Costello.
“I think Cormac plays so much better when Con is there and they have a great understanding with one another. It also gives Dean [Rock] that bit more space to take a couple of scores from play and then obviously nail his frees as well.
“If Con isn’t playing and Clifford is then I think we won’t have enough firepower to be able to get over the line. That’s how big a player he is.
“You saw Clifford the last day, even with a dodgy leg the way he stuck that ball away for a goal - he actually showed a lot of pace in breaking away from his man in putting that goal in. He is just a superb talent and we know all about Con as well.”
O’Callaghan is one of a clutch of top drawer talents to emerge across the past decade, contributing handsomely to Dublin’s dominance as they swept to six All-Ireland crowns in-a-row.
However, while last year’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Mayo came as a shock to some, Brennan admits there are concerns about the conveyor belt of players on the way through.
“It's definitely drying up.
“I think the cohort of Jack McCaffrey, Ciaran Kilkenny, Paul Mannion, Dessie's minor team back in 2011, and I think he had the lads in 2012 as well, that group of players, their natural quality, I haven't seen it just yet in what's coming through now.
“What I have seen is wonderful structures in place with the county board, professional structures that are improving the whole time. While we may be found lacking at the latter end of Championships, in years to come the target will certainly be to be hitting the All-Ireland semi-finals and final of the All-Irelands, year in, year out with the hope that we'll be able to fall back on that structure and those foundations that are very much in place.
“In terms of the natural born, God-given talents, I'd say that that group that has come through is outrageous and we'd be doing well to see it again in our lifetimes.”