Tuesday 24 October 2017

Cadogan aiming to be star dual in Rebels' crown

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

IT SAYS all you need to know about Eoin Cadogan's big-day temperament that Conor Counihan has taken such a massive leap of faith in him.

Thursday night's team announcement confirmed the worst kept secret by the Lee.

Despite all his dual experience, Cadogan has never previously started a senior football championship game.

Yet he will now do so in an All-Ireland final, replacing veteran John Miskella at corner-back against a Down team with some traditionally fleet-footed forwards.

That's some game to make your SFC debut.

Playing first-choice full-back for the county hurlers meant that Cadogan's two senior football championship appearances this summer -- like his three previous ones since 2007 -- were all off the bench; in the Munster semi-final replay against Kerry and in the All-Ireland semi-final against Dublin.

So, will starting in an All-Ireland senior final faze him? Will it heck.

Cadogan may have only turned 24, but there's already five Munster U-21 medals (three football, two hurling) and one All-Ireland U-21 (football) under his belt, as well as previous big-day visits to Croke Park with the county seniors.

Inter-county dual stars are now an endangered species -- so he is already exceptional.

Yet ask the chirpy Bord Gais rep if his head ever gets in a spin from juggling both codes for club and county and he just grins and replies: "You'd have a job now to spin my head!"

That's not arrogance, but rather Cadogan's charmingly open and laid-back personality, which is in stark contrast to his combative playing style.

Only last week he confessed: "Everyone gets nervous coming up to a big day, but I'm kind of a relaxed kind of character, as much as people might think differently on the field."

There was some surprise when Cadogan, not long back from the hurlers, was the man that Counihan called up to replace injured captain Graham Canty against Dublin.

But the Douglas defender, who hero-worshipped Brian Corcoran as a kid, played both codes throughout this year's national leagues and was "down at every (football) training session" this summer if they weren't clashing.

There is certainly no questioning Cadogan's commitment, best summed up last week when he said: "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 role."

Yet if everything appears to now fall into his lap, it wasn't always that way, and maybe that's exactly why he relishes it so much.

Cadogan insists he was useless at both codes as a child and that his progress should give inspiration to duffers and fluffers everywhere.

"Up until I was 13 and 14 I could never get my game whatsoever, even in school. I used to be one of the fellas kicking the ball up and down the sideline to keep warm," he says.

He'll happily regale you with stories of his under-age mortifications, like getting 'cleaned for 3-3' in an U-15 development game when his mentors refused to take him off, or of facing, at 17, the terrifying spectre of marking Niall Cahalane in a club game.

So, how did he develop?

"Hard work definitely and physically, at around 16 or 17, out of nowhere I got bigger than some of the other fellas," he says. "As much as I'm laid-back I'm a driven enough kind of character too and I really did try to improve myself."

"A lot of it has to do with mindset, you have to have the mindset that you can improve. And definitely Douglas persisted with me and I'd have to thank them for that, especially people like Tom Sheehan, John Fitzgerald and Timmy Bermingham.

"I definitely came on as a player from being thrown in at the deep end. You learn to adapt and you've no fear when you're younger either. I remember a fella who was 6' 3" and I was only after turning 17, and coming in to him like a brick wall. I probably hurt myself, but I thought I'm gonna drive on here, you've just no fear at that age."

Expect him to be similarly fearless tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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