Alan Cadogan walked despondently from the hallowed turf of Thurles last July, a non-existent figure in the county’s 15-point annihilation at the hands of Tipperary.
Cork’s Munster U21 semi-final exit was as frustrating as it was worrying, Cadogan failing to register a flag over the hour.
The Douglas forward doesn’t hesitate in putting his hands up, his contribution nowhere near good enough. A forgettable evening for all on Leeside.
Fast forward 12 months. A Munster senior medal in the back pocket, a central figure on the scoreboard in Cork’s four provincial games. Oh, and he tallied 1-4 in the county’s U21 semi-final win away to Waterford.
Alan Cadogan has been this season’s Shane O’Donnell, sprung from the nursery to devastating effect, a hugely talented young hurler for a county to fall in love with.
“What a difference a year makes,” smiles the 21-year old. Indeed.
“Last year I was on the fringes of the senior set-up, but realistically, I wasn’t going to make the panel against Dublin or Clare. Then to go out against Tipp at U21 was a huge shock, and I’ll hold my hand up and say I played pretty badly myself.”
Such riches he could not have dreamt of during his maiden summer on the senior scene and it wasn’t long before the panel’s more experienced members were impressing upon the youngster how fortunate he has been.
“I know I’m lucky. Pa Cronin turned to me and said that on the Thursday after the Munster final. The likes of Pa, Shane O’Neill, Paudie O’Sullivan and Anthony Nash had been knocking on the door a long time to win one.
“I had only played about three league games when I got my championship debut and we’ve strength in depth in the panel, the likes of Aidan Walsh joining, Paudie (O’Sullivan) and Luke O’Farrell coming back from injury. It shows why you have to take the opportunity when it comes. A couple of hurling games came my way, I played well and took my chance.
“It’s all about learning about the training and the lifestyle of senior players and that did stand to me. As a fella said to me the other day, ‘you’re probably playing more games than you’re going training’. That’s a good thing because you have momentum when you’re playing games. It’d be nice to do the double now at U21.”
It would, but it won’t be easy. And Cadogan knows that.
“People forget about the U21 grade when you’re playing senior, but it’s your own grade and it’s my last year playing it. Go back to last season and we were beaten by Tipperary by 15-points which was fairly embarrassing, so that makes this U21 final even bigger. Clare are a great side, but if we don’t win we’ll have nothing at the end of it. We’re not getting carried away because we won a semi-final.”
The Cork full-forward is simply playing up the opposition when commenting that this is Clare’s All-Ireland. You couldn’t but agree though.
Shane O’Donnell bagged three goals in the senior final replay last September, Colm Galvin established himself as one of the game’s leading midfielders, with Tony Kelly picking up the Hurler of the Year award. What a shock it would be if their inter-county interests were ended before the calendar page turned to August.
“You just look through the talent they have and the fact they were beaten at senior and (were) a bit upset about that. This is their All-Ireland, really. They’ve been winning Munster titles at underage, the work is being done there, and they won All-Irelands at U21 and senior last year.
“If you’re to be honest about it the hurling in Cork underage, minor and U21, we haven’t won any silverware [2007 their last U21 final win]. This year we’ve that Munster title at senior, but we’re narrowly missing out underage. You saw the minors a couple of weeks back against Limerick, losing by only a couple of points in the end, so we’re not a million miles away.
“We can go up to Ennis and play with a freedom and express ourselves. The pressure is on Clare.
“If you look at their team, the names they have are phenomenal. They are going to be playing in front of a massive home crowd. We will of course be outnumbered in support. Going up to Ennis to face the All-Ireland champions is a challenge, a challenge we accept readily and one we’re looking forward to.”
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