CORK'S victory over Limerick just reinforced what a monumental loss Alan Cadogan was in the 2018 championship.
A knee problem, which cleared up in the weeks after the Rebels' All-Ireland semi-final loss, meant the lethal inside forward was marked absent for the summer. At Croke Park his absence was a factor in a bitter defeat.
The now 26-year-old made his return off the bench in the Gaelic Grounds after Conor Lehane was forced off early on, nailing 0-3 from play and having a hand in four other scores.
It was a memorable outing for the Cadogan family, with his brother Eoin a beast at full-back, collecting the official RTE Man of the Match bauble after. Between injuries, time on the bench and Eoin's football commitments, it was the first major hurling championship tie together for the Cadogan brothers.
“Eoin came back playing hurling (last year) and took a bit of a risk. I got injured so we didn’t play together in championship so it was special for the family being honest,” explained Alan at the launch of the John West Féile hurling competition, which takes place in Cork and Kerry next month.
It's been a gruelling road back for the Rochestown College teacher, who is involved in their senior teams with Limerick native Paul O'Reilly. There's a strong hurling connection in Roco given U20 manager Denis Ring's wife Marie is principal, while Tipp midfielder Michael Breen will be on board next year.
Cadogan explained his “strong support network of family, friends and colleagues” kept him going, but he did suffer a run of bad luck this year trying to make his comeback.
“I’d a calf injury. I’d a finger caught in a bib, a freak injury. It was Seán O’Donoghue’s bib so I keep reminding him to that. Then there was the quad injury against Tipp in the league and I picked up a hamstring in the challenge match against Dublin.
“You look at the new format and I trust Declan O’Sullivan and the medical staff to make the call (to miss the Tipp loss). Thankfully it was the right one because I was able to come through nearly a full game against Limerick.
“I’ve a good bank of fitness so I just needed to get my touch work in and a bit of match sharpness, which you try to do at training.”
Cadogan agreed with the assessment that John Meyler's charges were far more determined and ruthless than they had been in the disappointing opener at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
“You need to bring that attitude and work-rate every day, which we didn’t in the Tipp game. A lot of people are congratulating us and saying how brilliant it is but as a group of players we know exactly what Waterford will bring. You have to move on to the next challenge, you’ve no choice.”
Cork are the flavour of the week after landing a blow on the All-Ireland champions, but they have a break now before hosting Waterford on June 8 and going to Ennis the following Sunday.
“We know ourselves as a group of players that it’s a very thin line between winning and losing. We’d a very poor performance against Tipp, things didn’t go our way, but we responded to that in Limerick.”
It's critical now they don't lose momentum in the three-week gap before facing the Déise.
“You’ve fellas who have played two hard games, 70-plus minutes and there are little niggles. Psychologically it’s tiring so the break might do us no harm but at the same you’ve to maintain your level of intensity at training because before you know it we’ll be facing into Waterford’s last game.
“We’ve to review the Limerick game because it wasn’t pitch perfect and there are areas to improve on. You can take confidence from beating Limerick but you look at the Munster championship and it’s an absolute battlefield and it’s wide open.
“Limerick have to go to Waterford now and from a spectator’s point of view it’s phenomenal, very entertaining. We can enjoy beating the All-Ireland champions but the reality is we haven’t won anything. We’ve plenty of things to work on.”
Cadogan, who was a dual Cork minor and excelled for the footballers at U21 – as well as briefly featuring for the senior footballers in the 2016 qualifier loss to Donegal in Croker – fondly recalls his own Féile days.
“The amount of people involved in running the weekend is incredible. It’s an amazing competition. I played 14 years ago in Roscommon and I’ve some phenomenal memories that will stay with me for the rest of my life.
“It’s not about the winning and losing it’s about making friends for life. I still have people from that time who would contact me and wish me the best of luck.”
Douglas' U14s fell short in the quarter-final against Kilcummin of Kerry.
“At the time it seemed like the be-all and end-all but it’s only now that you appreciate the culture of the Féile and the work that goes in behind the scenes. The Féile organisation is huge.
“I still see photographs from that year, the fellas I played against and the teams I played on and it’ll live on in my memory. You’re hosted by another family, you really get to know them and you’re in a different county for a weekend.”
For now, Cadogan is eagerly looking forward to the rest of the Munster campaign, after the frustration of the past year.
“I look on it as something that happens for a reason. Declan O’Sullivan did a huge amount to get me back and it was just picking up these small niggles, which happens when your body is overcompensating for the original injury.
“It was obviously great to get out on the hurling field but more importantly that we won.”