Stealth mode suited Limerick last year but don’t try convincing Alan Cadogan just yet that taking the alternative route to an All-Ireland title is to Cork’s advantage.
Losing All-Ireland semi-final games as Munster champions these past couple of seasons following on from the same in 2014, the county have struggled with the gap that has varied from five to four weeks.
Beginning with Westmeath on Sunday and they hope Kilkenny seven days later, Cork must win over successive weekends to reach that same stage.
Cadogan is reserving judgement on Cork’s path.
“Ask me in a few weeks’ time,” he smiles wryly. “Look, you can look at it two ways. Tipp and Limerick playing a very, very competitive game on Sunday. Winners are through to All-Ireland semi-final, losers in quarter-final. We have Westmeath, we have two or three weeks of hard training into us that Tipp and Limerick won’t have. You can look at it either way.
“Our main objective at the start of the year was to qualify in the top three. Nice to get to a Munster final. Most important thing for us is that we finished in the top three. Luckily enough, the way it turned out, that is where we finished.
We weren’t sure after the Clare game did Tipp beat Limerick. We didn’t know, both games started the same time and then we got wind that Tipp had won. At the start of the year, if you were to name the top three teams in Munster, nobody could have done it. So it is fine margins. But it is parked now and we can move on.
The 14-year break to Cork’s last All-Ireland SHC title is just two shy of the longest ever famine between 1903 and ’19 but Cadogan doesn’t need to be told about incentives. Time is catching up on some of the players including Patrick Horgan, who Cadogan admires so much for his “obsession” with the game.
“Patrick is 31 I think, and John Meyler says it will be a shame if he bowed out without an All-Ireland medal. That is something we can control as a group of players but at the same time, we can’t be saying we have to win an All-Ireland for Patrick or Anthony (Nash) or Eoin (Cadogan), the older members of the panel. The years fly by, I am 26 and you have to live in the moment.
“You have the likes of Luke Meade, Shane Kingston, Mark Coleman, Darragh Fitzgibbon, 21, 22, 23, thinking you have loads of years at the top level. But just because you are in an All-Ireland semi-final this year, it doesn’t mean that you will get back there next year.
“Waterford the last two years, they didn’t make it out of the group and that is another year gone. So you have to embrace each game and each year as it comes.”
It was unfortunate but appropriate in a way that Cadogan’s championship opening in Limerick this year came at the expense of an injury to another player, Conor Lehane.
As well as the first round of the Munster SHC against Tipperary, Cadogan missed the start of the league after suffering a freak finger fracture.
“Yeah, got caught on Seán O’Donoghue’s training bib. I was saying to the kitman that we have to get rid of the bibs!
“That kept me out for a stint and picked up a quad injury in the league against Tipperary and then the week before we played Tipp in the championship, a tweak of the hamstring. Probably could have played but then with the new format, if you go down with a pulled hamstring after 20 minutes, forget about the next three games. I think the right call was made and I trust the medical staff.
“Thankfully, got back for the Limerick game and everything went smoothly from there on. No reaction to the injury, nothing. Hamstrings and everything else has held up. I have run out of body parts to injure, as the physio has been saying.”
As Aidan Walsh looks set to miss out on Sunday’s visit to TEG Cusack Park because of another finger injury, Lehane could come back in and Cadogan speaks of how Cork want to be known more for the strength of their panel than the team.
“Unfortunately for Conor, he had to go off but the door opened for me. I didn’t even think about it, didn’t have a chance to think about it.
“Again, that is the strength of our panel this year — we have a few lads champing at the bit to come on and get game-time. One fella comes in and does his bit.
That is the culture and environment we are trying to create in Cork, someone comes in and gives his all, does his job and if he has to go off after 25 minutes, 45 minutes, it doesn’t matter. The next fella comes in and does exactly the same.