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Final answer to dual poser

SOME might see Eoin Cadogan's presence in Sunday's All-Ireland final as a piece of opportunism by the Douglas man who, for a large part of the summer, confined his championship participation to the Cork hurlers' struggle.

His sole appearance in the Munster football championship -- a 53rd-minute replacement for Noel O'Leary in the provincial semi-final replay -- was the last time Cadogan materialised on the pitch prior to his introduction at half-time (for Graham Canty ) in the All-Ireland semi-final, yet his commitment to the cause is unquestioned within the camp.

As he points out, it wasn't just a case of turning around to the footballers and hitching a lift to Croke Park for the semi-final after the hurlers went out. He has been there in training, played half of their league matches and, as he says himself, he's willing to do anything for the big ball cause.

"If they told me to go over and watch the corner flag and we won the All-Ireland, I'd be happy to do that," states Cadogan. "I made it clear to everyone that I'm very appreciative that I can be brought back into an intercounty team.

"I'd like to have been a lot more involved in the qualifiers but there was a draw against Kerry (football) and a draw against Waterford (hurling). That's another two extra games you don't need so that put me on the back foot trying to play both and they were clashing. But I'm very appreciative of both the squad members and the management, both (hurling manager) Denis (Walsh) and (football boss) Conor (Counihan) communicated very well during the year."

His dual status is quite novel. Cadogan isn't the last of a dying breed, more the resurrection of a species thought to be recently extinct. He accepts, however, that his power of bi-location will evaporate in time.

"I suppose there's only so many years in it but there's been no problem this year," he notes. "Both managers have been very lenient, there's been great communication between them. It's been easy.

"I never said to myself during the year, 'this is impossible'. You have to remain focused and be able to mix and match, adapt. If I thought too much about it I'd probably get myself bothered.


"Some people seem to think about it way too much," adds Cadogan. "I just think about we've a hurling match this weekend, I'm going to concentrate on that and we're playing football next week and I'll be back to that on Tuesday night."

His decision to hurl at the start of the summer rather than play with Counihan's footballers was, to many people, inevitable. Yet in a county as unevenly divided by the codes as Cork is, he had to accept the sniping and grumbling about his intentions.

Cork football people are a rare yet noble breed who, according to the stereotype anyway, resent the attention, support and adulation adorned unto the hurlers in the county. Yet if Cadogan was phased by any if it, he doesn't show it.

"It wasn't a case either where I wasn't involved all year," he points out. "I played nearly half-and-half during the league so it wasn't a case that I popped up out of the blue. I was involved in the Kerry game at the start of the year, then there was a break of play and I wasn't missing anything until the Munster final was played. I was down at every training session and even if they were clashing, that leniency was there."

His rise to prominence in both codes has been a source of great story-telling on Leeside. Far from 'destined for greatness', Cadogan stresses that his formative football and hurling years were spent largely idle.

"I used to be one of the fellas kicking the ball up and down the sideline when it was raining, trying to keep warm," he recalls, though his appearance on Sunday in his second All-Ireland final represents the fruit of his laborious pursuit of excellence.

It's in his nature not to have his feathers ruffled too easily though he admits he will be nervous on Sunday, one way or the other. Yet he is well-versed in the strengths and quirks of Down's game and, as a defender, has identified the obvious threat.

"When you've the likes of (Martin) Clarke, who can kick a ball accurately from 40 to 50 yards out, that's a serious asset to have," he notes. "Trying to counter-attack is a very hard thing to do. He doesn't exactly play corner-forward, he heads away down to his full-back line and goes for an 'oul jog and seems a fairly fit kind of character."

Cadogan himself is a fairly fit kind of character too and has won the admiration of many for plying his trade across both codes this season. He rages against the notion, however, that he is somehow entitled to glory for his efforts.

"You don't deserve something unless you work hard enough for it and nobody's going to come out of Cork and say 'Down won the game but Cork deserved it'," he says. "If you came across someone who'd say that to you you'd tear his head off."

With that sort of fighting talk, it's little wonder Counihan and Walsh have bent over backwards to make Cadogan's joint-custody arrangement work so effectively this year.