THE 2019 inter-county hurling season might be some distance off yet but it cannot come quickly enough for Alan Cadogan.
The Douglas star missed the entire 2018 campaign through injury and it was the most frustrating period of his sporting life.
But what’s past is past, it’s all about what lies ahead now and he’s eagerly looking forward to taking up from where he left off before injury struck.
And, without a doubt, John Meyler is looking forward to his return too.
“If I could close my eyes now I would start pre-season in the morning. As the saying goes, you don’t realise what you had until it’s gone. This year I found it hard watching on but, thankfully, I am over the hill now.’’
So what exactly kept him on the sideline for such a lengthy period?
“In simple terms, it was a bone spur growing out of my knee and on top of that a tendon, known as your patella tendon was a problem so it was like a conveyor belt and every time you moved the tendon was hitting and rubbing off that bone spur.
“Thankfully, surgery to rectify the problem went very well, I had that done over in Sweden.
“Yer man was the best around and to be fair, the Cork County Board supported my move and Declan O’Sullivan monitored it.
“It’s twenty weeks now since I got the surgery and I am back to full fitness now and looking forward to the year.
“It was frustrating both from a Cork viewpoint and Douglas but injuries are part of sport and you must accept that."
The younger of the Cadogan brothers did participate in the pre-match build-up in the All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick but he was never going to get on the pitch that day in Croke Park, he told the Echo.
“People see you running or jogging and think you’re back, but you’re not. With Declan’s expertise, he made a call that I didn’t have enough work done before the Limerick game.
“At the time I was saying ‘would ye not put me on the panel’, and though it looked like I was, in reality, I wasn’t actually on the panel, I was more there to help some of the younger lads in a second All-Ireland semi-final.
“But I wasn’t an option to come on. That wasn’t a possibility. But when you get to additional time, extra-time, you start thinking, ‘is there five minutes in me, is there 10 minutes?’
“But it’s an All-Ireland semi-final. There’s nowhere to hide, it’s sink or swim and I didn’t have the work done. My fitness levels wouldn’t have been up to scratch.”
A talented dual player, the Douglas man decided not to play football this season in order to aid his recovery.
“Before we played the Barrs in hurling I made my decision, it’s a completely different sport and I knew if I went back and relapsed it would have been terrible. No-one knows the work I’d have put in down in the gym in Páirc Uí Chaoimh over the previous 16, 17 weeks.
“I love playing football but if I’d hurt it then... maybe it was selfish but I made the call.”
The lengthy rehabilitation period was often challenging.
“It was, the security guard in Páirc Uí Chaoimh could tell you how many times I was down in the summer working on rehab.
“I could sum it up for you in two contrasting experiences. In 2017 I was the man-of-the-match in the Munster final, a great day and a great experience, but this year I took off with my parents straight down the road after the game and while the rest of the lads were out celebrating I was down in the gym rehabbing my knee.
“Those are the small things that would stick with you. Anyone who gets an injury will tell you about rehab that there are two choices. You can avoid the rehab, and you won’t come back fitter and stronger, or you can do it.
“It’s lonely, it’s tedious, the programme I was on was tedious enough but I knew I had to put the work in. I’m lucky as a teacher, I had the time to give to it, but however lonely it is, you have to give it the time if you want to get back.
Older brother and Cork teammate Eoin, who has a background in strength and conditioning, was a help to Cadogan.
“He was, and so was Declan (O’Sullivan), they were very helpful all through with advice and monitoring.
“It was small steps, back walking and jogging, and thankfully I’m out the right side of it now.” During that time on the outside looking in, he had to be very disciplined, something that was not a problem, he said.
“I discussed it with the management team as well about what role could I play and maybe provide some leadership for the younger guys.
“You have to be disciplined but, luckily, I am that kind of person anyway and I will do what I am told.’’ Although not on the pitch, he felt the same pain as the players who were on the pitch that day in Croke Park when Limerick came roaring down the home straight to snatch the victory.
“It was a huge disappointment but there’s very little now between any of the teams. In Munster, you could not pick any of the three teams who were going to make it into the All-Ireland series.
“It will be no different next year but, hopefully, we can come out and make it further this time. We just fell short there against a very good Limerick team.
“But I feel we are very close and with just a few small tweaks we can get up there but there are no guarantees and just because you were in a semi-final this year does not mean you’ll be there the next one’’.