Dublin teenager Cian O'Sullivan flying the Trinity hurling flag
By Cian O'Connell
It has been a hectic few months for Cian O’Sullivan, but the talented Trinity College and Dublin hurler is still smiling.
The immensely promising St Brigid’s youngster is delighted that significant challenges are arriving thick and fast at every level of the game.
In his first year with the Dublin senior panel O’Sullivan has enjoyed a productive stint with Trinity too, culminating in an All Ireland Freshers Division Two Championship success on Tuesday.
That arrived following Trinity’s welcome return to the Independent.ie Fitzgibbon Cup and O’Sullivan is enjoying the adventure.
“Yeah, we won the Fresher title on Tuesday, it has been a busy few weeks, it has been a busy few months to be honest, but that is good,” O’Sullivan says.
“There is a good spirit, a good crop of Freshers have come in and on the Fitz team you had five or six Freshers starting. They are all nice hurlers and they boosted the team, the seniors needed it really. It has been a great experience for the College.”
Conor Laverty, a great servant to the Down cause during the past decade, is spearheading a Gaelic Games revival in both codes at the University. The official opening of the refurbished Trinity GAA Pitch at Santry is scheduled for Sunday when the Trinity Gaelic Footballers face a Dublin selection.
It is merely the latest step on the Trinity GAA journey.
“There probably wasn't as much recognition for GAA players in Trinity for a while, the rugby players would be known, the hockey players would be known, but it is only recently that people are seeing what is going on.
"Apparently this year has been a huge expansion, we had 30 odd Freshers in which is the most they've ever had. This year the funding has increased, a new gym was put in upstairs in the Trinity Sports Facilities and we were allowed to use it.
“You can't really compare it to club, but it definitely seems to be growing. You play with the club your whole life, but you come in here in your first year and you start trying to play with other lads. Then you can't compare it to county because that is a different level altogether.
“We only have about five or six lads from Dublin on the team, the rest of the lads are all from the country - Clare, Limerick, Galway, it is good to play with them, it is something new.”
How O’Sullivan has adapted to different environments marks him out as a particularly highly rated performer. A Leinster minor winner with Dublin in 2016 O’Sullivan has seen action in all three of Dublin’s Allianz Hurling League matches this Spring.
“It definitely has been a step up, I suppose I wasn't sure about my future after minor. You could be thinking about going off travelling for a year to take a gap year, but I got the call for the seniors, I went back training, I thought about it and I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. I'm too young to turn it down.
“I got a call at the start of November, they wanted to let a few of the new lads know that they wanted to include us in the county panel. They said they would see how it goes with a few trial games and then to move on from there.
“In fairness they brought in around 20 or 30 lads that hadn't been on the panel before and they let lads go over the next eight weeks.”
O’Sullivan, though, made it through the selection process alongside five of his minor colleagues as manager Ger Cunningham has opted to give youth a fling.
“Only three of us have got game time, but we have six lads from the team training,” O’Sullivan states. “Then you have two more lads who have got game time who are under 20. So there is a huge contingent of under 21s getting game time and doing well for themselves too.”
Tipperary proved too strong for Dublin before a much improved display earned victory at Pairc Ui Rinn against Cork even though Saturday’s defeat to Waterford was a disappointment.
“We don't really want to talk about the Tipp game to be honest, that was an absolute disaster,” O’Sullivan admits.
“We needed a reaction against Cork that time and we got it so at least we know we are able to do it. That talk about consistency in Dublin has always been floating around for the past five or six years, we just need to bring it.
“People were saying before the Tipp game that three of last year's minors were starting. They were being thrown in at the deep end, and you'd be thinking I'm there I'll give it a shot. When you were finished that game you think I've just played against the All Ireland champions at Croke Park, there couldn't be a bigger stage or a bigger venue for that game to happen. It is invaluable, you come on to the training field the next day and you just know what you have to do to get better.
“All the lads are going hard at it. All they want to do is to end up in Croke Park in August or September.”
Clare are next on the agenda at Cusack Park in Ennis this weekend and O’Sullivan acknowledges the relevance of the contest. “Yeah, it is do or die for relegation or to get to the Quarter Finals,” O’Sullivan remarks.
“Tipp are already there, Waterford look to be on track, we need to win that game to build on the last nine or 10 weeks training. Otherwise we aren't doing ourselves any favours. We know what we are capable of, we showed that against Cork.
“Going down to Cusack Park in Ennis will be a tough job because they are known to bring out big crowds. They have a few of their players missing with Ballyea, we have our Cuala lads out too, but we aren't dwelling on that.
“We have what we have at the moment, we are just going to try to build on from everything. The lads are gearing towards it, I missed Tuesday's session because of the Freshers, but I was talking to a few lads after, they were saying it is getting intense now, and that we need to cop on because we don't want to be in Division 1B.”
* Trinity College GAA’s newly refurbished home pitch at Santry Avenue will be officially opened by Uachtarán Chumann Lúthchleas Gael Aogán Ó Fearghail this Sunday, March 12. There will be a full programme of Gaelic Games from 12pm to 4pm, the centre-piece of which will be a match between Jim Gavin's Dublin football team and a Trinity College selection.