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Colm O’Callaghan ticking lot of boxes in the Rebels’ midfield 

April 6th, 2024 2:16 PM

By Kieran McCarthy

Colm O'Callaghan is one of the first names on the Cork team-sheet. (Photo: Ben Brady/INPHO)

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PAUDIE Kissane is not surprised at Colm O’Callaghan’s emergence into a key player with the Cork footballers.

Kissane has worked with O’Callaghan at club level for a number of years and has seen the Éire Óg man develop into a Rebels’ regular, partnering Ian Maguire in what has become the first-choice midfield pairing.

They started all seven Division 2 league games alongside one another this season, and it was a similar story last year in the All-Ireland series. If they’re both fit, O’Callaghan and Maguire start. There’s no debate.

‘You don’t even have to research that, you know that it’s Colm and Ian in midfield in every game,’ 2010 All-Ireland winner Kissane says. 

‘Colm has established himself as starter for Cork, and Ian Maguire and himself are the midfield pairing for Cork now.

‘When Colm came into the team first he might have played wing forward or centre forward, but now he has settled into midfield and has benefitted from the consistent exposure to training and playing there. 

‘It hasn’t been all plain sailing, there have been tough lessons along the way but they are standing to him now.’

Cork's Colm O'Callaghan in action against Derry in the 2023 All-Ireland quarter-final.
(Photo: John McVitty/INPHO)


When he made his championship debut for Cork in 2020, O’Callaghan was named in the half-forward line, and it was here too he impressed with the Cork U20s that won the 2019 All-Ireland title. 

He is also one of the success stories from that side, as O’Callaghan has developed into a Cork regular. Injuries have blunted Cathail O'Mahony’s progression while other U20 team-mates like Maurice Shanley, Sean Meehan, Mark Cronin and Fionn Herlihy have been in and out of the senior team.

‘You could argue that there should be more players coming through than we have had here in Cork,’ Éire Óg football manager Paudie Kissane says. ‘You want those players to become established and starting senior inter-county players, and Colm is that now. This needs to happen, you need players to push through and progress.’

O’Callaghan is ticking a lot of boxes right now and his importance to John Cleary’s side was evident throughout the league – the Éire Óg footballer is a physical and aggressive midfielder who can score, and that’s what makes him stand out from the rest. He chipped in with 0-8 in the league and was the county’s joint-fourth top scorer. O’Callaghan kicked 0-3 against both Armagh and Kildare to showcase his kicking ability. The home win against Kildare in March also provided one of the showreel moments of the league when O’Callaghan soared backwards through the air to snatch the ball from the sky, and after grabbing the marl he set Conor Corbett on his way for a brilliant goal. Super football to watch.

‘Colm may well have been Cork’s player of the league campaign, regularly bursting forward to create and take scores,’’ 2010 Cork All-Ireland winner and Star columnist John Hayes says. ‘Colm is a powerful man and very difficult to stop when he gets a head of steam up. He has improved aerially also and is now the number one target for the long kick-outs.’


A man whose opinion counts more than all others has been impressed by the strides O’Callaghan has made, as Cork boss John Cleary commented: ‘Colm is a great lad, great to train, great to prepare and he has improved immensely in the last few years.’ Paudie Kissane agrees, pointing at O’Callaghan’s ability to take a score.

‘The game is so tactical now at inter-county level and the role of a midfielder is different with the way teams defend en masse and attack en masse. You have some aerial battles to contest kick-outs but it’s not like it was years ago. The biggest strength Colm has shown is that he is able to convert chances – he picked off a couple of great scores against Armagh, and against Kildare too. That is standing to him, that ability he has to shoot from a bit further out which can help Cork if teams get numbers behind the ball,’ Kissane says.

‘In the last few years the game has become more possession-oriented and low risk, so to have someone who is able to get great scores that can lift a team is a real asset.’

There’s a nice blend to the Cork midfield of O’Callaghan and Maguire, and Kissane feels the next step for the Éire Óg footballer is to produce consistently for Cork. Heading into the Munster senior football championship and then the All-Ireland series, there will be high-profile games for O’Callaghan to show what he can do to a larger audience.

‘Colm has shown he can compete very well, and ultimately to go from a position of competing to winning the battle, it’s to get the consistency over a long period of time. It’s to have the consistency of performance. He has shown his attributes and what he is capable of, and he needs to keep doing that,’ adds Kissane. 

Limerick are first up for Cork on Sunday in the Munster SFC, and that’s another chance for O’Callaghan to stretch his legs and show what he can do. All going well, a trip to Killarney will be next up – and that’s a stage he will be keen to shine on.


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