John Mullane may be Eoghan O’Donnell’s biggest fan – but it’s a two-way street in the O’Donnell household.
Earlier this month, after Dublin and Waterford fought a pulsating draw, Mullane told Independent.ie’s The Throw-In podcast that if there was a transfer market in hurling and he could sign one player, it would be the Dublin full-back.
O’Donnell was suitably chuffed, but not for the reason you might expect. “My Mam is the biggest John Mullane fan you’ll ever come across,” he revealed at an AIG Dublin GAA event ahead of Saturday’s Allianz League trip to Tipp.
“She goes to all the games, but she often listens to John Mullane on the radio, and I get a running commentary on everything John Mullane says. My Mam thinks he’s the greatest,” says O’Donnell.
“I’d be a big fan of tradition in the game and respecting people that have gone before you. I grew up watching John Mullane, so when you hear (former) players saying stuff like that, there’s no point putting it down or making it a small thing. It is a point of pride for me to hear that. It just gives me energy and fuel to keep going and try to become the best player I can be.”
O’Donnell’s ultimate ambition, however, is all about the collective: turning Dublin into genuine All-Ireland contenders. After their recent four-point win in Belfast, Antrim boss Darren Gleeson described them as being among the top-five teams in the country.
Their captain cautioned that Dublin currently are “not in the leading forefront” because results haven’t shown that over the last few years, but he added: “We certainly are in the close pack. We fully believe in Dublin that with a few extra per cent, and a few more consistent performances, on our day we can beat anyone in the country.
“That’s what you have to believe when you’re going training. To be honest, it’s too much of a time commitment, too much of a sacrifice to all other aspects of your life.
“If you didn’t fully believe you were making progress and nearly achieving something, we wouldn’t be able keep it going … we fully believe in Dublin that the players are in the group.
“We’ve got training to a standard that you have to train harder than you play matches, and I know when I’m going out in a training match for Dublin that I’m going to be facing as difficult opposition as anywhere in the country.
“Regardless of who you’re marking, whether it’s Ronan Hayes or Trollier (Eamonn Dillon) or Aidan Mellett.”
For years, the Dublin footballers were known for setting the benchmark when it came to internal competition and setting sky-high standards on the training pitch.
“And we’re just trying to get to that level,” he pointed out.
If anything, right now, there are higher expectations around the Dublin hurlers.
“I can only speak from our part, but it’s been a massively enjoyable year for us,” O’Donnell reflected.
“The atmosphere around Dublin hurling at the moment is extremely positive. It’s still very early days for football and hurling, so I wouldn’t put a massive amount of faith into any results at the moment, positive or negative.”