Between the draw and the venue, it wasn’t quite a day of great news for Dublin hurling but Cian O’Callaghan wasn’t perturbed.
“When you are a young lad, the dream is to play the All-Ireland champions, the dream is to play big matches,” he said, already appearing as though relishing the challenge, just hours after said challenge had been confirmed.
Outwardly, it might look a step too far for a team currently unsure of their footing but the way the Cuala defender sees it, this was the sort of game Dublin were going to have to face into at some stage anyway.
“And there are a lot of lads in the Dublin camp who have that attitude and have that mindset, they want to see one-on-one are you better than the man you are marking.
“And as an unit, can you beat the best team in the country?”
Not that O’Callaghan is blindly optimistic or lacks self-awareness.
He was there in Ennis on the day Dublin were relegated, just as he was in Tullamore when the team were mauled by Galway.
He understands intimately that it has been a trying year Dublin hurlers, unable to gain traction and relying partly on a cast of hurlers who may yet need a couple more years to hit maturity.
It’s just that it’s in his competitive DNA to never see a challenge he didn’t fancy and in many ways, this one carries no expectation with it to Thurles.
“All the pressure is on them,” he points out.
“There’s no pressure on us because nobody gives us a chance.
“We give ourselves a chance,” he clarifies, “but I know the media gives us no chance, people in Tipp will be giving us no chance so it’s a good way to be going into a match.
“I suppose there’s nothing to lose for us, just go out and I suppose express yourself.”
A chronically depleted Laois team at home was Dublin’s draw in the last round yet no such plum ties existed this morning.
You could argue that Dublin were landed with the most difficult possible tie but O’Callaghan quickly points out that the level of difficulty of each outcome was roughly comparable anyway.
“I suppose going into it, we knew it was going to be one of the three All-Ireland semi-finalists from last year, so it didn’t really matter who we got,” he stressed.
“Obviously, All-Ireland champions last year, it is going to be huge and going to be a huge challenge. I suppose we are looking forward to it, as well.
“It was good to get the win over Laois at the weekend, a bit of momentum, but you want to challenge yourself against the best teams.
“And Tipp are the best team.”
This is far from Dublin’s best team after the number of defections, many of whom O’Callaghan with an All-Ireland club title with back in March.
“Ideally, you want your strongest hand but this is the hand we’ve been dealt,” he stresses.
Dublin looked polished on Saturday night but met no real resistance and the extent of their healing post-Galway is yet to be fully established.
“It is like anything in sport and with any team, you have a meeting among yourselves and lads talk openly and honestly,” he recalls.
“But I think the most important thing is you look at yourself and question yourself, that is what the soul-searching is.
“Ask yourself am I doing all that I need to do to play at this level?”
Galway’s smooth installation as All-Ireland favourites offered little solace, O’Callaghan admits.
Dublin were well beaten long before the final whistle and need to do something unprecedented to win in Thurles.
“I wouldn’t say there’s any consolation. It doesn’t matter who you lose to and how they go afterwards.
“We weren’t even close to being good enough for them at the time.
“Although Galway have gone on and done well it’s no consolation to us.
“We have to get up to a level we haven’t been at this year, and probably haven’t been at in two or three years, to really have a crack at Tipp.”
Conor McKeon – 04 July 2017 02:30 AM