EOIN CADOGAN expects provincial champions Limerick and Kilkenny to prevail in this weekend’s All-Ireland SHC semi-finals.
Kilkenny take on Clare tomorrow evening and, while the Banner have impressed so far, former Cork star Cadogan thinks that the experience of the Cats could be vital.
On Sunday, Limerick will look to make it 14 championship matches unbeaten and stay on course for a third straight title.
Given the quality shown so far in that quest, he thinks they will make it through against Galway.
“I think purely based on what I’ve seen from Galway and Limerick, I can’t look past Limerick,” he says.
“They’ve found a way each time something was thrown at them, the Munster final was just another feather in their cap in the sense of how they find a way to win.
“So for that reason, I feel that Limerick will come out the right side of it, especially when I look back at the quarter-final and at Cork’s lack of efficiency, against a more potent team like Limerick, you would imagine they will put away those scores.
“Clare and Kilkenny probably isn’t as clear-cut as people think, you’re seeing a very hard-working, modernised team in Clare coming up against the old dog essentially who know how to get over semi-finals.
“I think it’s going to be a much closer game than expected, I wouldn’t rule out a draw, but if there was one team to edge it purely off their experience alone and their willingness just to go to the well all the time, I think Kilkenny could actually sneak it to be honest with you.
“Clare have been electric under Brian Lohan this year, I think they matched their skill and speed with work ethic. I think now it will be which team can work harder than the other at the weekend, and the experience that Kilkenny might have — everyone has questioned them throughout the year, can they cope with new systems and styles? — but when it comes to it they know how to ground out a win.”
Limerick’s physique was the subject of much comment after pictures published on social media in the wake of the Munster final win over Clare, but Cadogan is of the view that that is just one part of their overall package.
Being in a strength and conditioning background, a lot of people have asked me, ‘How do you look like that?’
“That’s not just lifting weights or running around the pitch, that is culture, environment; it is everything about high performance and that’s exactly what Limerick have, a high performing group with a high performing culture. That to me is recovery, that to me is sleeping, that is hydration, that is being consistent with your gym work, consistent with your food, and really, really buying into it.
“You don’t look like that just ticking one box, that’s eight or 10 pillars in terms of maximising your physical and your mental best self and that’s what that photo reflected to me.”
As to what Cork can do to match the best, relentless work and defending from the front is part of the answer.
“I have never started out a campaign thinking that Cork have not got the capability to get to an All-Ireland final, or to get the very best out of themselves,” Cadogan says.
“I think there was probably a shift in mindset in terms of the work ethic that was expected of the players. I obviously have referenced this previously that there were only three tackles in the first half of the All-Ireland final last year and that’s just simply unacceptable.
“The game has evolved so much and launching the ball 100 yards down the field is no longer acceptable as a defender because you have to work the ball through the lines, you have to be able to execute the ball and you have to be able to execute the basics of defending, it’s no different in the forwards now.
“And you see that with the teams that are competing; Clare, Limerick obviously, Wexford, the work ethic starts up top and I think Cork have definitely managed to improve that stat this year. But obviously, then it’s combining them both, with the scoring efficiency, and they will definitely feel that it was one that got away.”