Alan Cadogan was in Portugal last July, observing a promise he’d made to himself to ignore the All-Ireland semi-finals, when his interest got the better of him.
After locating a bar with the Kilkenny-Limerick game on, he bought a beer, pulled up a chair and watched, fascinated, as the Cats channelled their inner dog and savaged the All-Ireland holders with a ferocity that inspired him.
That, in a nutshell, is what Cadogan feels Cork must add to their game this year, ferocity.
“There was a bit where Adrian Mullen just literally hunted down a Limerick fella, right down there,” said Cadogan, sitting in a Croke Park corporate box and pointing down towards the Canal End.
“They just hit him and hit him with everything. That just summed it up for me.”
Kilkenny beat Cork too, of course, in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, when they turned on the afterburners in the third quarter and strode confidently clear.
Cadogan recalls a “12-minute block” — between the 40th and 52nd minutes — when Cork fell asunder as Kilkenny took full advantage of a change in tactics to reel off 0-8 without response.
“I just still remember it, myself and Patrick inside in the full-forward line — we were getting a reasonably good return inside there but then we hit that 12-minute block, and I can remember turning to him and [saying] Kilkenny went back to old-school Kilkenny,” said Cadogan.
“They dropped back and unfortunately we fell into the trap of just pucking down long ball onto their half-back line.
“They were just catching ball and they cut out the supply line going in to us and during that 12-minute block we might have touched the ball once.”
As much as clever tactics won the day for Kilkenny, it was also Brian Cody’s side at their determined best, displaying an appetite for destruction that Cadogan feels Cork simply must replicate under Kieran Kingston in 2020 if they’re to win anything.
But can they do it?
“That’s the question,” acknowledged Cadogan.
It’s up to us as a group of players to raise it. Limerick and Kilkenny are the two teams that, if you look at their six forwards, the amount of turnovers they get ... like, it’s a cliche but the defence starts in the corner, with me or whoever else is inside there.
“The question is ... and look, it’s not even a question, we just have to do it because if you keep doing the same thing over and over again, you’re going to get the same result. Kieran knows that.”
Cadogan was an All-Star nominee in 2019 and Pat Horgan made it onto the team of the year. Yet for Cadogan at least it was just another year without an All-Ireland medal and time, the 27-year-old schoolteacher noted, is marching by.
“Your mindset changes as you grow older, and I’ve noticed that over time and over the years,” said Cadogan.
“It would have changed a lot over the last couple of years because time is running out. The bottom line is that we have to stick to the process etc but, at the end of the day, if you ask any inter-county player why do you start training back in November, it’s to win an All-Ireland.”
In order to help develop that ravenous streak in Cork’s play, having exited the last three Championships after coughing up leads at Croke Park, Cadogan is prepared to sacrifice his own game and work harder than ever.
“I remember people saying last year after the Kilkenny game, ‘Ah, you were doing great work inside, you were outstanding’ but, at the end of the day, Cork were beaten,” said Cadogan.
“Even though it’s nice to hear people say that, you’re going home on the bus and you’re thinking, ‘F*** it, we just lost an All-Ireland quarter-final’.
“No-one is going to remember in 20-whenever, ‘Oh, back in 2019 Alan Cadogan got this amount of scorers’. They’ll remember, ‘Oh yeah, Kilkenny beat Cork that year, didn’t they?’
“I’d rather see Cork win and me only get a point, but be hooking and blocking and getting turnovers.
“That’s part of my game and part of the game for the other forwards that we need to work on and, like I say, we need to bring something different this year and hopefully we can do that.”