WHILE his underage Dublin contemporaries like Paul Mannion and Jack McCaffrey have taken a step away from the county senior panel in recent times to focus on other opportunities, Niall Scully says his late arrival on the scene means he has no intentions of giving up his jersey any time soon.
Scully has been a virtual ever-present since 2017, culminating in an All-Star for his 2020 efforts to go with four Celtic Crosses.
Having shone under Dessie Farrell at minor and Under-21, though, the senior bow was a long-time coming, so much so that he felt 2017 was make or break.
In both 2015 and 2016, he spent his summers in Chicago – ticking over with John McBride’s GFC – after his run with the county panel was curtailed long before the business end of the season.
But he says those experiences played a key role in steeling him for more recent times.
“After I finished with the Under-21s, it took me a long time to get onto the panel, getting dropped two or three times,” he said on Wednesday at the AIG Dub Club Health Launch.
“It probably helps for where I am mentally now. I have no intentions of walking away anytime soon. We are here to win All-Irelands and to enjoy the company of Dublin players. That’s the main thing. It’s a big part of my life and hopefully will remain to be for the next three or four years.
“Plenty of times, it would have crossed my mind [if it would ever happen with Dublin], mostly in 2016. Playing in the O’Byrne Cup in 2017, mentally, I knew it was time to give it a big crack and get onto the panel. That was the main focus, never mind even getting onto the starting team and playing All-Irelands.
“It was like championship football for me [in that O’Byrne Cup]. We trained for a couple of weeks beforehand fully focused to try and impress individually. The main way to do that is when the team is going well and, lucky enough, I had three or four good games in that campaign.”
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Given that route, the Templeogue Synge Street man says he is never complacent about getting a starting spot despite being a near ever-present on the starting line-up of late.
“Most of the time, my mindset would be the exact opposite. We have internal games most weeks leading into matches and the mindset is always there is someone coming to take my place. I wouldn’t be expecting to be a shoe-in – it would be very far from that.”
Indeed, he has been the most active player in the panel since 2017 but, while enjoying the initial rest, he is now itching to get back out of lockdown and into action.
“This is longer than a break now! Three or four weeks is a nice break but these three months have been difficult for me and other intercounty players and all families around the country.
‘I took about three or four weeks off exercise around Christmas and if you were around me, you definitely would have seen my mood drop [after that]!
“We are all feeling it and are exhausted. That’s the incentive of what AIG are offering here, an opportunity to getting the mind and body active again. Cases are going down and we are looking like we are coming closer to a bit of action.”
And with that comes the pursuit of six in-a-row; while there is plenty of noise about Dublin’s perceived advantages, Scully says there is not much mind being taken within the camp as the players can only look after their own arrangements.
“When we were going for five in-a-row, there was hype being built around us. It was very much a conversation to be avoided, something we didn’t talk about and something we definitely will not be bringing into the squad this season.
“People will say what they want to say and write what they want.
“Our mindset is only control the controllables. It definitely doesn’t hurt me yet.
“We are doing everything we can in our power [to be successful] and that is something we can control.
“I don’t really know how to explain our dominance. But it is genuinely down to the mindset of the individuals who come together over the last five or six years.
“When you think about the leaders, there is never a time they are not thinking they are not being challenged, not improving. Johnny Cooper, Stephen Cluxton – they are always at you, making you improve. That’s why the standards haven’t dropped.”