A knee problem halted O’Callaghan’s gallop somewhat last summer before an ankle injury – he didn’t go under the knife for either despite some reports suggesting otherwise – picked up on the eve of the league left him sidelined throughout a frustrating spring.
“That’s part of sport and guaranteed to happen at some stage,” he reasoned.
He never views a hectic schedule between his club and county
commitments as a chore with absolutely no sign of his hurling days for Cuala slowing down any time soon either.
“I love playing football. The more I play, the more I enjoy it. We had a lot of great days with the club as well, people would sometimes ask, ‘Oh you’ve been on the road so long’ but if I didn’t want to be on it, I’d just leave.”
The timing of his latest setback was not ideal, though, as Dessie Farrell’s inexperienced Dubs lost their first four league games and cracks started to appear in the empire.
Although the 26-year-old, who works with PwC and is currently on study leave ahead of his accountancy exams in August, brands himself a bad spectator, the panic button was not pushed and the negative chatter around them was dismissed.
“I suppose when you’re going well there’s a lot of positive commentary, I suppose too much. There’s always that balance between never as good or as bad as you’re made out to be. You’re probably somewhere in the middle.
“It was important we kept perspective, obviously a little of that outside stuff will seep in, but it’s important we kept perspective, there was an end goal in sight, we just needed to build and get performances to where we want to go.”
There were even some rumours during Dublin’s rough patch of O’Callaghan, who was subsequently named vice-captain for this season, switching codes to join his brother Cian with the hurlers under his former Cuala boss Mattie Kenny.
“Sometimes people would come up to me and tell me I’m going to the hurlers,” he chuckled. “That was the first I’d heard of it. You hear of it (rumours), but most of it is nonsense.”
As is his wont, the three-time All-Star belied any rustiness to make a stunning 2022 debut against Wexford in their Leinster SFC opener, firing 1-6 from play, and he was similarly influential as they brushed aside Meath last weekend with “a pretty complete offensive performance”.
That sets up a Leinster final showdown against Kildare with their League loss to the Lilies unlikely to leave them wanting in terms of motivation as they chase a staggering 12th provincial crown in succession.
O’Callaghan expects a “huge challenge” from Glenn Ryan’s side – “a really strong team with a lot of really good athletes, particularly up front” – and then it moves on to the ghost of last year’s shock All-Ireland semi-final loss to Mayo being laid to rest.
The days that followed their seven-in-a-row dreams going up in smoke were “a bit of a whirlwind as you don’t know where your head is at” with a holiday to Portugal organised to soften to blow before All-Ireland final day rolled around.
Having joined the Dublin fold in 2016, O’Callaghan has always had a vested interest in the biggest day of football calendar and “it was strange not being involved”, although he doesn’t view Dublin as the hunter rather than the hunted this year.
“Even when we were winning back-to-back All-Irelands you probably don’t look at yourselves as the team being hunted.
“You kind of always try change it that you are hunting down something, or hunting down a better performance than the last day.
“And that is also what we focus on, if we play to our potential and we play against ourselves as best we can we’ll be in a decent position.”
With O’Callaghan in full flow, they’ll rarely be in a bad position.
O’Callaghan launched AIG’s Support4Drummo jersey swap fundraiser campaign for Seán Drummond, a former Cuala player who suffered life-changing injuries in a 2019 accident. To donate, visit: