By John Fogarty
It’s not as if Eoin Cadogan is obsessed with what his fellow Cork hurlers think, but you can tell their perception of him is on his mind.
At 31, the chance to line out for the hurlers again — better still, the opportunity to play alongside his younger brother Alan — was something he found difficult to turn down, even if it meant quitting the county football panel.
At the same time, returning to a fold he left following the 2014 season was a daunting experience.
“Obviously, [it’s] a different environment. It is also a different core group of players with the hurlers. Obviously, last year’s success brings its own support or fan base for the hurlers. In saying that, I’m trying to find my own identity within the group. It’s obviously a very young group.”
Four years ago, another former Cork dual player and ex-colleague, Aidan Walsh, spoke of his paranoia when coming into the hurling panel while playing both codes.
It’s five years since Cadogan played for both senior teams in the one season, so on that count he didn’t have to worry about feeling he was doing something half-arsed.
However, it’s been something of a culture change, going from being the strength-and-conditioning coach to up to 12 of the panel, who were among last year’s U21s, to being their teammate.
There might also have been the idea he was coming into a group that had done much of the spade work last year in claiming an against-the-odds Munster championship.
“I probably took a risk in the sense; I was out of hurling for so long and to come into a squad that had kinda formed its own identity from the year previous when it won the Munster championship,” he admits.
“If I went out and I was getting my ass handed to me it would have been a bad decision, that’s what people would have said.
“It was important for them to see it wasn’t just a case of me coming back for an easy ride. I wanted to come back to prove that I have the capability and I still have the desire to play at the top level.
“Once an individual or player or team sees that is what you’re there for, then you will bond a bit more,” said Cadogan, who believes his toggling between the two codes is at an end.
“At 31, I couldn’t see myself going anywhere else. I don’t want to think too far ahead, because there’s so much going on between club and county, that you can’t look too far ahead.”
The Douglas man could never say he spread himself too thin by committing to the two, though.
“I’d probably say that some of the best performances I gave was actually when I was a dual player. 2009, ’10, ’11, ’13, Cork were reaching All-Ireland semi-final stages in both codes from what I remember, at different times, as well as All-Ireland finals. I certainly wouldn’t look back and say that hindered my performances.”
The demands of the inter-county game have prompted the extinction of the dual player and he prays changes to the club season won’t force something similar to happen. His club, Douglas, have had it tough, with nine dual players between the two senior teams.
“Ultimately, when you play with your club, it’s there for enjoyment. Yeah, we go out to perform and to win our games, but when you speak to me about the club, I would feel that it is for enjoyment the whole way up.
“You didn’t start with this massive competitive environment. You started because you enjoy what you are doing and you still have the same amount of faces that have trained with you the whole way up, the same amount of guys that you would have played with the whole way up and that creates that fun aspect of it. If you’re making fellas choose at different times, that maybe removes that whole club element of it.”
Cadogan has been solid at full-back so far for Cork this season, filling the role left by Stephen McDonnell, who departed the panel at the end of last year.
His own assessment of his play isn’t as positive: “I think I can be better. I don’t think for a second I set the world alight. I need to get better; everyone does.”
This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.