GAA Editor @BrianGBarry
Con O'Callaghan's dream 2019: Haircuts, weight gains and positional switch key to star's success
Last Updated: 19/09/19 4:36pm
Even by his own high-achieving standards, 2019 was a special year for Con O'Callaghan.
The Cuala man played a crucial role in Dublin sealing an unprecedented five-in-a-row, and the UCD student is now in the running to be named Footballer of the Year for the first time.
Right from the start of the summer, O'Callaghan looked like he meant business, even in his physical appearance.
"It was in May or something. I was just finished my exams for college, all my mates were going to America so I had to do something. I let my brother get a razor out and shave my head," he laughed.
"He did his best job, actually my two brothers did their best job at ruining my hair and then I went to the barbers and got it chopped!"
It soon caught on among his team-mates.
"(Paul) Mannion followed me and then Smally," he continued. "Paddy Small is the latest addition, he got it done the other day!"
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He was also setting trends on the field, leading the Sky Blues' charge from the inside-forward line.
"I was half-forward the last two years," he said. "Previously in my career at underage I would have been in the full-forward line on the edge of the square. Then in 2017 I started playing centre-forward for Dublin and I was there in 2018 as well and I was switching inside and out with Ciaran (Kilkenny) but this year myself and Mannion stayed higher up the pitch.
"It's going back to what I used to do which is get the ball closer to goal.
"It's going back to what I used to do which is get the ball closer to goal."
O'Callaghan enjoyed a return to taking on his man
"When you go for a goal, a point will probably pop up anyway. That's what I was told from a young age. Get your man and go straight for the goal, something will happen for the most part."
New look, new position, and also a new weight. O'Callaghan had the look of a man who had applied hours of work in the gym throughout the winter, and it paid dividends.
"I've been getting stronger every year but it's only maybe a kilo or two difference in my weight since last year so I put on a little bit," he noted.
"This year was the first year I had a league campaign with Dublin because we were knocked out with Cuala so I kind of had a bit more time to work on all aspects of my game. Jim (Gavin) was obviously a part of that but it wasn't my intention."
The hard work eventually paid off, as they got over Kerry on the second time of asking in the All-Ireland final.
However, just like team-mate Philly McMahon, the replay meant a change of plans for O'Callaghan.
"There was nine of us from the team that had a weekend in Berlin booked - a music festival over there," he said. The draw ensured the trip to the German capital was postponed. "The last couple of days before the [drawn] match, you were just thinking, 'that'll be it, there'll be a result here, win or lose, there'll be a result anyway'.
"Most players weren't happy with their performance the first day. But the second day, I think the game was a lot more open, a lot more expensive. A lot of lads went at it really hard from the start. I think we got 1-17 from play. I don't know if there was anything in particular, I think it was just the first day, I was probably just a bit contained inside. I didn't get enough ball myself, I didn't get free enough.
"[In the replay] I just made a conscious effort to get free early and go at my man early.
"I would have felt that if I did the same thing again... if it didn't work the first day, it won't work the second day.
"It's just about finding those little areas. It's not massive improvements, you aren't going to change everything. It's those little areas, those little one or two per cent that give you a little edge, and also keep doing the stuff that you do well.
"We had to change it up a little bit."
But even after storming into an early lead in the replay, the Dubs were forced to dig deep.
"It makes it all the more thrilling when it's in those crunch moments that you can rally round each other. It makes it more special when it's a tighter game."
All-Ireland football titles, club hurling triumphs, individual gongs. The wheel just keeps on turning. Mere days after helping Dublin achieve history, you could be forgiven for assuming he would rest on his laurels.
But focus immediately switches back to the small ball, as he joins up with his Cuala club mates on a revenge mission after their early exit in 2018.
"We're playing Crokes this weekend. It's a massive match for us," he continued.
"We're training tomorrow (Friday). I'll be down tomorrow night and I'd love to go ahead for the Crokes game.
"It all comes very fast, it's only a week since the game, but I love getting back to the hurling and playing with the lads.
"We have a really good team there."
No rest for the wicked.