CORMAC COSTELLO’S DREAM performance off the bench in the 2016 All-Ireland final was seen as a coming of age performance by the Whitehill Colmcilles man.
Then aged 22, he clipped over three points against Mayo to haul Dublin over the line, finishing the final as the joint-top scorer from play.
Costello was a minor All-Ireland winner in 2012 and U21 champion in 2014, but arrived into a senior set-up heaving with attacking talent.
Still, he managed 1-5 as a substitute in the 2014 Leinster semi-final against Wexford and forced himself into the starting 15 for Dublin’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Donegal later that summer.
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Injuries and a dip in form meant Costello would have to wait four years for his next championship start with the Sky Blues. Following his heroics in the 2016 decider, Costello suffered an injury-ravaged 2017 where he tore his hamstring three times.
“2017 was a frustrating year, I pulled my hamstring three times,” he said.
“It was frustrating but there’s a great medical setup there, we get great support from the backroom team and they’ve all got me back on the pitch so it’s a credit to them really.
“The worst would have been eight weeks, I was out for eight weeks at one stage with a torn hamstring. So it was a good bulk (of time), you’d miss a whole league campaign or a good bulk of training throughout the summer which is obviously frustrating.
“But like I said, I was lucky enough to get back on the pitch in the end of 2017. It was kind of a bittersweet moment.
“There’s some serious competition out there (among other teams), and even among ourselves in training. You want to be getting back on the pitch. You see everyone training away. If you’re on the sidelines it’s frustrating, you want to get in and play football, that’s what we’re there to do.
“It’s all about looking after the injuries, especially now in the off-season, just keeping on top of my nutrition and my gym work, just to make sure that I come back in the best possible shape.”
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As younger forwards like Con O’Callaghan, Niall Scully and Brian Howard leapfrogged over him into the starting line-up, Costello was forced to be content with a substitute’s role this summer.
He posted 0-18 across five appearances, including four points in the Leinster final against Laois and 0-9 in his only start against Roscommon in the Super 8s.
“Ask any footballer, they want to be playing and on the pitch as much as they possibly can. There’s different roles for different guys on the team. Some lads play more than others.
“Some lads don’t get the chance at all. It’s just a privilege to put on that jersey and represent Dublin in some way and influence the team, just a privilege to get more time this year.
“Any time I pull on that Dublin jersey it’s a proud moment,” the 24-year-old continued.
“It’s something that you grow up wanting to do and wanting to achieve. It’s a special group of players. It’s an honour to be involved even with them, in any capacity.
“There’s a special bond between the group, between management and players. You definitely want to be part of that, part of that journey and we’re all in it together really.”
The strength of Dublin’s squad means while some teams can stick with them up to the 45-minute mark, Jim Gavin has the luxury of unleashing the likes of Costello, Kevin McManamon, Michael Darragh Macauley and Paul Flynn on tiring defences.
“Every footballer wants to play as much football as he possibly can. So that would be the aim. But if it’s not to be, it’s not to be. If I’ve some other role with the team and if I can push the team over the line, I’ll gladly do it.
“You don’t want to come into a game and not know what’s happening before, it’s nice to come in and pass on the messages of what might be working and what we might need to improve on.”
The Whitehall Colmcilles ace is also a talented hurling and won a Leinster minor crown in the small ball code back in 2012. For now though, his focus remains with the footballers as he doesn’t feel there’s a place for dual players in the modern game.
“Funnily enough I have a hurling match now next week, with Whitehall, my club, we’ve a match against Finbarrs to get promoted to Division 1 so I’ll be focusing on that match. Of course, I love coming back and playing hurling with my club.
“Growing up I loved playing the two of them, it’s just unfortunate you can’t do both. It’s not feasible to do both.
“I’ll never say (never), I’ll never rule (hurling with Dublin) out but at the moment I’m enjoying my football.
“I’m enjoying playing football and representing my county. So for the moment I think I’ll kind of stick with the football. But you never know, I’m not as good as I used to be at hurling anyway, they mightn’t want me!”
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