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'The best in the country' and 'fickle' - the life of a Cork hurler

Star forward Alan Cadogan says that playing for Cork can be a rewarding but equally challenging experience.

ALAN CADOGAN SAYS that while Cork supporters can be ‘the best in the country,’ they also can sometimes be ‘fickle’ when the team suffers from a poor run of form.

Alan Cadogan Cadogan in action for Cork in the 2017 Munster SHC final against Clare. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Similar to the county’s football team, the Cork hurlers have been through a turbulent time in recent years.

Their 2016 championship, for example, consisted of an nine-point defeat to Tipperary in the Munster quarter-final, followed by a narrow loss against Wexford in the second round of the qualifiers.

It was Wexford’s first senior hurling championship win over Cork in 60 years.

By contrast, 2017 was a far more progressive season for the Rebels, in which Cadogan hit 1-4 as they collected the Munster title following victory over Clare. They also contested for a spot in the All-Ireland final, but after finishing the game with 13 players, they bowed out to Waterford in the semi-final.

Cork is a county with a successful history in both football and hurling codes, but Cadogan knows that that sense of tradition brings an inherent pressure with it. He sees that as a good thing overall and uses it to enhance his experience as an inter-county player.

But there are times, he feels, when the Cork panel must focus on the players in the dressing room.

“People are looking forward to the year ahead. Supporters are looking forward to it because there are four games in five weeks. From their point of view, that’s what they want, but obviously the Cork public, it’s fickle.

You can be great at one stage and then you lose a game or two and they might turn on you like that. As players we just focus on ourselves, we don’t look outside that.

“Cork support is unbelievable, whether it be in Pairc Ui Chaoimh or Thurles, it’s the best in the country, but it’s a fine line and we just know ourselves that we focus on ourselves, we don’t look at anything outside that.

“It’s all about us, we don’t really focus on other teams. To a certain extent, we’re just trying to get our house in order.

Cork being Cork, we want to go out and win. Everyone’s main objective is being in an All-Ireland final in the middle of August.

“The only focus for every county is going to be their first game, because there’s going to be an upset somewhere along the way; whether it be in Munster or Leinster and I don’t think teams can look beyond the group stages.”

The 2018 championship will see the introduction of a round-robin format, which was passed at the GAA’s Special Congress last September.

The new system means the five-team Munster and Leinster championships will be played on this basis, with the top two teams in each provincial group battling it out in the provincial final. The third-placed teams will advance to the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

Bord Gáis Energy Cupán Tae Café Launch Alan Cadogan, along with Wexford's Conor McDonald and Joe Canning of Galway. Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Cadogan outlines that teams are heading into ‘the unknown’ under these new structures, with Cork facing into a block of four games across five weeks, starting with a home tie against Clare on 20 May.

The change could be an exciting development for hurling for both players and spectators, but Cadogan and his teammates will have to adjust to it all on ‘a trial basis.’

“You’re playing four games in five weeks. From a spectator’s point of view, it’s going to be extremely exciting for them.

For us, we get to play more games, but you’ve got challenges: if you pick you a hamstring injury, it could rule you out for three or four weeks, and that could be your season over if things don’t go to plan in your games.

“That’s why it’s very important to win your home games. There are pros and cons to this new format. Obviously, there’s going to be more games, so it’s good from a spectator’s point of view.

“From a player’s point of view, it’s also good, but you pick up an injury, your perspective might change on the format, because you might have a shorter period to recover.

Whereas, last year and previous years, you might play your first round of championship and there might be a three-week gap until the next game. It’s going to be challenging this year, but one we’re all looking forward to.”

On hand to launch Bord Gáis Energy’s summer of hurling are ambassadors Joe Canning, Conor McDonald and Alan Cadogan.

Throughout the Senior Hurling Championship, Bord Gáis Energy will be offering fans unmissable GAA rewards through the Bord Gáis Energy Rewards Club.

For more, see #HurlingToTheCore

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