Alan Cadogan isn’t long playing the ‘nobody gave us a chance’ card when talking about Cork’s win over Tipperary. The difference is that, in Cadogan’s words, “you couldn’t blame them”.
The Douglas clubman says beating Tipperary “was a huge confidence booster for us as a group of players, and from the point of view of the Cork public as well. Not many people gave us a chance going into it but you couldn’t blame them either, really.
“Going in against Tipperary, though, the work was done. It was a great team performance, but once that final whistle went we had to put the game to bed. It was great, we enjoyed the win, but now we’re looking forward to Waterford on Sunday.
“They’re going to pose a completely different challenge to Tipperary. We know that ourselves, Kieran (Kingston) addressed that very quickly after the Waterford game.
“We were straight back training the Tuesday night after the Tipp game - some lads went back to their clubs for championship games - but we knew as soon as the Tipp game was put to bed we had to turn our focus to Waterford.”
Much of the post-game discussion focused on the youthful Cork debutants. Cadogan describes them as “well able to take care of themselves”. “Looking back on my own experience in making my championship debut, I had older players encouraging me and making me feel welcome, helping me with the training, all of that,” says Cadogan. “The five lads who started against Tipp have fitted in perfectly since they joined the panel, and their play reflected that in the game. They weren’t fazed by anything, who they were marking, anything - all they wanted was to go out and hurl.
“We’ve been emphasising in training they might not get the same amount of freedom against Waterford the next day, they’ll have completely different tactics and gameplan compared to Tipperary.
“In fairness to the lads, they’re only 19,20 so in one way taking them under your wing would make you feel fairly old at 24! They’re well able to look after themselves, they bring that freshness to training, but at the same time they’re not afraid to give out either if someone isn’t putting it in at training or if they don’t get the ball they want. They’re maturing as they go, which is great to see.”
Cadogan points out even the newer Cork players have seen plenty of Waterford this year already. “The younger lads have gotten a nice bit of experience in the Munster League and the National League, and it also helped that they experienced championship hurling the last day, some of them for the first time, rather than going in cold against Waterford.
“They’re an exceptional team, Waterford, and we could all see that they were unlucky not to get to an All-Ireland final last year; they’re probably second favourites at the least to win the All- Ireland.
“At least our newer players have the experience of facing them twice this year, in the Munster League and the National League, but again - championship is totally different to league hurling. We know the size of the challenge ahead of us next weekend.”
The prospect of a Munster final berth against Clare is “a huge incentive”, he says, but adds: “Kieran and the management team have stressed we can only focus on the next game. We can’t take our eyes off the ball, we can only control the controllables, and if we don’t perform against Waterford the next day then nobody will remember the Tipp game.
“We’re focusing on Waterford totally and on trying to put in another 70-minute performance, as we did against Tipperary. That’s all we can do, and we’re looking forward to the challenge this Sunday.”
His manager pointed to the big fish in the qualifiers already, and Cadogan agrees on the need to go through the front door. “If you ask any inter-county team or players they’d all say they want to go through the front door not the back door, obviously it’s the front. You make it to a Munster final and the worst you can expect is an All- Ireland quarter-final. Everyone wants to go through the front door, the qualifiers will get more and more competitive as teams go in there - Kilkenny are there now and Cork or Waterford will join them there next week. Tipperary, Dublin, Limerick.
“Who wouldn’t want to go through the front door if that’s the alternative?”
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