IT'S hard to believe Cork are three games into the Munster championship and Eoin Cadogan has yet to feature.
The return of Cadogan to the fold was one of the main positives from the league, where he was solid at the edge of the square in the absence of the injured Damien Cahalane. Unfortunately for the veteran, Inniscarra's Seán O'Donoghue also excelled in the spring, with the rookie nailing down a berth in the last line of defence in the wake of Stephen McDonnell exiting the panel.
Cahalane, an All-Star nominee in 2017, has matured into one of the best full-backs in modern hurling and he was always going to come back into the side for championship. Granted Cahalane struggled against Limerick when Seamus Flanagan caused huge problems, though he wasn't helped by the fact Cork had a spare man and didn't utilise him to protect the space between the 45 and the 21.
With Colm Spillane a no-nonsense corner-man, Cadogan was squeezed for the opener against Clare. No one could have an issue with the management going for O'Donoghue, Cahalane and Spillane across the full-back line. That trio offers pace, controlled aggression and aerial prowess, especially in Spillane's case.
What was surprising was that Cadogan didn't come off the bench against Tipp or Limerick. Cork coughed up a nine-point advantage against the Premier and could have done with fresh legs and a bit of nous in the second half in Thurles.
It's a long while since Cadogan has featured in the half-back line, even for his club. He occupied the number six position in 2012, Jimmy Barry-Murphy's first campaign when he returned to the helm, but generally now he's an out-and-out marker.
Yet, in a 20-minute burst, his attritional approach could still be useful breaking up attacks across the half-back unit.
In the draw with Limerick, John Meyler and his selectors sensibly replaced O'Donoghue at half-time as he was one foul away from a second yellow. Cadogan would have seemed the obvious replacement, or else Sars' Conor O'Sulllivan – the sweeper when Cork hurled with an extra defender twice in the 2013 campaign and again in 2-016 against Dublin – but Tim O'Mahony was brought in.
O'Mahony was the centre-back in the league but is better known as a forward, and came in as a sub in attack against Clare and Tipp. Mark Coleman was moved from six to the loose role but those moves didn't click.
O'Mahony was nervy and couldn't command the centre-back berth – which he might do in time as he's still U21 – while Coleman's attacking instincts and hard-running weren't suited to the last line of defence.
Before the new Munster format was launched, the talk was that squad depth was going to be essential. That's why the knee problem which has ruled Alan Cadogan out for the coming months is such a setback, the loss up top of the speed and directness of Eoin's younger brother is considerable.
Even without their usual number 13, Cork haven't made too many changes. Shane Kingston came into the line-up as a consequence of Robbie O'Flynn's concussion.
Dean Brosnan did start ahead of Luke Meade the last day, and will probably drop to the bench against the Déise, but a couple of changes might give Meyler's charges a fresh impetus this weekend. Then again, Cork are unbeaten, had last weekend off, and know if they defeat Waterford a place in the Munster final on July 1 is secure.
It's an ideal scenario coming into the last phase of the round robin section.
Still, if Eoin Cadogan doesn't get any game-time this summer it would seem like a waste to have recruited him.
He faced a similar situation when Barry-Murphy brought him back into the fold, on a dual mandate. While Aidan Walsh was a mainstay at wing-back for JBM despite his football commitments, Cadogan didn't get a fair go.
During the same period, he was hurling up a storm for Douglas, who reached the 2014 county semi-final, losing a replay to the Glen. Cadogan did an immense man-marking job on Patrick Horgan in those matches, suffocating but disciplined.
Now that was some time ago, of course, but Cadogan, whose profession is in the strength and conditioning business, still has the drive and fitness to impact.