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Change of stage suits Cahillane

He may be only 20, but Portlaoise hit-man Paul Cahillane has already experienced more in his sporting career than many will ever even dream of.

The fleet-footed corner-forward returned from a three-year spell with Glasgow giants Celtic, and is now looking forward to an All-Ireland club semi-final in his first year playing senior football. But he is under no illusions about what is needed to succeed in top level sport.

"The main thing I learned over there was an appreciation of hard work and that nothing comes easily, especially in sport," said Cahillane.

"It was tough over there at times. I remember my first year away and I used to get very excited about coming home. It was definitely the worst part of the whole thing, that and the Glasgow weather!"

Cahillane also had the opportunity to see sporting icon Roy Keane up close and spoke of the lasting impression the Cork legend made on him: "I remember seeing him and being completely in awe. He kept himself very much to himself but he had a huge presence. He trained with us a few times and his class was obvious, even from the small bit I saw of him."


One would have thought that a man with three years' professional training under his belt would have felt confident in his own ability to quickly adapt to senior club football, but it was not the case.

"I wanted to get back into the Gaelic but I didn't feel like I was ready for senior straight away," he said. "I needed to build up my strength and I wanted to ease myself back into it. I was asked up to the senior panel but I knew I wasn't ready so I was happy to play intermediate for six months."

The Portlaoise senior management were almost denied the talents of Cahillane again in the summer when he, like most young students his age, was tempted to board a plane to Chicago.

"Yeah, a good few of my friends were heading off to America for the summer and I nearly went," he said. "But I had a good think about it and decided to stay at home for the football."

It was a decision that has proved very wise in hindsight, as he has set both the Laois and Leinster championships alight with some awesome performances.

Cahillane has played in nine and a half matches (the half-match was the abandoned game against Offaly champions Clara) and has a very impressive 9-30 personal tally.

His eye for goal has earned him the Leinster club footballer of the year award and he is been touted by many for a place on Sean Dempsey's Laois panel, a prospect he is keeping to the back of his mind for now.

"I haven't really thought about it yet to be honest," he mused.

"The older lads on the panel have been telling us that it took them all their lives to be involved in an All- Ireland final. I'm only 20 and am only 60 minutes away so I'm happy to concentrate on that and cherish the year we've been having."

The manner in which the Laois kingpins have dispatched all-comers, especially in the Leinster campaign, has led to most observers installing them as firm favourites to capture glory in the March 17 final.

There have even been quiet suggestions that the O'Moore men were getting ahead of themselves, a notion Cahillane is quick to dismiss.

"I don't know if people are trying to build us up for a fall or what, but I certainly don't pay any attention to favourites' tags and I'm pretty sure none of the other lads do either.

"In the local paper at home it was said that we requested the St Patrick's Day parade to be cancelled as we were sure we'd be in the final. That is complete rubbish and was a town council decision which had nothing to do with anyone in the club."

No fear

Indeed there is no fear that Clare side Kilmurry/Ilbrackane will be taken lightly by the Leinster champions ahead of Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final date in the Gaelic Grounds.

"They are a very strong side," added Cahillane.

"They are the Munster champions and were in an All-Ireland final a few years ago so we're under no illusions about their quality."

The preparations for the semi-final have not all been smooth off the field however, with much being made of the financial problems currently being experienced by Portlaoise.

Cahillane was happy to say that it was not having a major effect on the players.

"There's nobody concerned about anything, only football at the moment. And once the jersey is on our backs that's all we care about. We've helped out in a few fundraisers alright but that's not a problem," he said.

"The main problem we've had in our preparation is trying to find challenge games at this time of the year but hopefully that won't affect us too much either."

Cahillane will also be praying that, come Sunday evening, he will have yet another stage to showcase his sporting talents.