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Inside the goal chances Con O’Callaghan scored and created against Kerry
Inside the goal chances Con O’Callaghan scored and created against Kerry

Inside the goal chances Con O’Callaghan scored and created against Kerry

AFTER ALL THE talk around David Clifford after his hat-trick against Galway, he delivered another towering performance against Dublin. 

Yet Dublin left Semple Stadium quietly pleased with the form of their own young star, Con O’Callaghan. He bulldozed his way to 2-1, won a penalty, set-up a few scores and was unlucky not to add further goals to his tally.

Indeed, he might have finished with five goals. He struck one shot off the post, saw another saved by Kieran Fitzgibbon and twice was unmarked for a tap-in at the back post but the pass never arrived.

With Brian Fenton employed in a deep role on the half-forward line, Dublin’s full-forward line contained Paddy Small, Ciaran Kilkenny and O’Callaghan.

Cormac Costello, scorer of 2-3, rotated in and out, while wing-forward Niall Scully must have covered every blade of grass in Semple Stadium. 

High balls

In Small, Kilkenny and O’Callaghan, Dublin had three physically powerful inside forwards. Dublin launched plenty of agricultural deliveries on top of that trio and O’Callaghan in particular thrived under them. 

He plays in a team that tend to spray quality ball into the forward line, but O’Callaghan is just as happy to battle it out for a 50/50 pass.

He won a penalty after claiming Sean Bugler’s shot that dropped short…

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…and won Scully’s high delivery for his second goal of the game. Paul Murphy appeared too preoccupied with O’Callaghan’s movement when the ball dropped and desperately dived to try cut it out, but it bounced perfectly into the 25-year-old’s path.

With a shake of the hips he engineered enough space to slot past the goalkeeper.

Check out Con O’Callaghan’s second goal just before half timepic.twitter.com/H0lMdXbOW1

— Dublin GAA (@DubGAAOfficial) May 23, 2021

The Kerry defence struggled to live with his physicality, though the supply line to the Cuala man dried up after half-time. It looks like he’s bulked up again during the off-season, making him even harder to stop. 

When he gets the ball under his arm, he’ll swing his other arm to hold off incoming defenders. It makes him excellent at operating in tight spaces.

O’Callaghan didn’t have to wait two minutes for his first goal chance on Sunday.

Back post runs

When Dublin race through on goal they’ll always send a man to the back post for a tap-in. Three times in the first-half O’Callaghan peeled to the back post and was unlucky not to raise the green flag at least once. 

With the first chance, when Scully broke the line O’Callaghan came alive and immediately headed for the back post. The pass was a tricky one and O’Callaghan’s outstretched hand was only able to guide it onto the post.

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When Paddy Small got himself inside the Kingdom rearguard in the 21st minute, O’Callaghan created space by bringing Jason Foley to the far post and Costello finished the chance. 

32 minutes in, O’Callaghan was an option when Small broke through again and opted to take his point.

Backdoor cut

O’Callaghan’s first goal in the 16th minute was a textbook Dublin play. They tend to use the backdoor cut, a basketball move, and an over the top handpass to get inside corner-backs who mark too high.

In this instance, Foley got too tight on O’Callaghan, who opened up his body…

…and cut inside, leaving his marker for dead…

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When O’Callaghan got the ball in the same corner a minute later, Foley had learned his lesson and stood off him. He was forced to allow O’Callaghan receive the handpass to chest to prevent him from cutting inside for another goal chance.  

The two-time All-Star drove out of the corner and eventually won a scoreable free for Costello.

Direct running

Deep in injury-time, O’Callaghan had the energy reserves to pick-up a break and run down the heart the Kerry defence. He slalomed away from three bodies and pointed off his left with a score that pressed Dublin three clear. 

He had options to his left and right for an extra pass that might have resulted in a fifth goal, but taking the point seemed like the smart option.

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Peter Keane’s decision to move away from the defensive experiment of last winter means Kerry will look far more open at times in their defence.

If Kerry and Dublin meet again in 2021 it will be in the All-Ireland final, there will be situations where O’Callaghan finds himself in possession with only one defender between him and goal. 

He’ll only have one thing on his mind in such a scenario. His power, fast feet and direct style of play make him an extremely difficult man to stop. 

Kerry have been forewarned. 

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