The secret diary of Eoin Cadogan, aged 24
GAELIC GAMES: TOM HUMPHRIESgets a glimpse of a hectic year of hurling and football im the red of Cork for Eoin Cadogan. Tomorrow is his last chance for success
EOIN CADOGAN takes a pause in life. He has left the diary out in the car, though. The diary is the key to his life or at least the map of how life has been over the past six months. “I’ll get the diary,” he says before we sit. Then he’s off at such a canter he makes you feel five years older. Your backside hasn’t hit the chair and he is back not even out of breath.
Eoin Cadogan’s 2010 diary, the record of the last great dual player, is filled in assiduously on page after page. Unfortunately the pages are big ledger-sized and the entries are brief scrawls about as legible as the scribbles on a doctor’s prescription. In total they read like the appointments book at a leisure centre of a busy gym.
There are no deep thoughts or meditations recorded. No musings as to the brittle nature of fame or whether Conor Counihan’s star sign is compatible with success in September when the moon is in the ascendant. Not even Paul Galvin gets a mention. Where would Cadogan find the time?
The entries make you worn out just by looking at them. Training. Training Training. Run. Ball alley. Physio. Run. Training. Training. Training. Yoga. Challenge v Limerick. And that’s just Monday. Not really but is seems like that.
“Sometimes I would be down at the training but wouldn’t train. Otherwise it is Tuesday, Thursday and a game on Saturday or Sunday and weights on the Wednesday and the Friday.”
THE FOOTBALL league shakes itself to life first. Long journey to start. Monaghan in football. Away.
“It was my first time up there. The tight pitch. The noise. They scraped a win. I was delighted. On the way up I’d been thinking what a miserable journey home it was going to be if we lost. Sunday evening. Six o’clock. Raining. Heading for Cork. Have to pick it up on Tuesday. There were four Cork supporters there.”
Next week it was football again. Home this time. Played Kerry.
“I got sent off against Kerry in the league. Got a month. That opened up the door to hurling.”
Ehm, rewind there, Eoin.
The month’s suspension? That was the start of the greatest feud the old west has seen since the Hatfields and the McCoys fell out. What happened to Cadogan’s tooth that night is the subject of as much dispute in Kerry as it if off outrage in Cork and there isn’t the space here to take legal depositions from both sides so let’s just skip to the gory bits.
“Bit of a tangle. I should have been wearing a gumshield. My mother has been on the case for long enough.”
Anyway he lasted 20 minutes. The tooth was cracked across the front. The root was sticking out. He went to Pat Hartnett and his own dentist, Hilary Hogan. The game was on Saturday night. The dentist didn’t open till Monday.
“The day after the tooth before I got to the dentists we played Sars in a hurling challenge in Glanmire the next night. The tooth was cracked across and I was in fair bad form, taking painkillers and knowing the tooth was ready to come out. I got some sticky tape and tried to insert it to stop the tooth banging off the nerve.
“Not a good idea! I played the whole evening at full back and centre back.”
He went in on the Monday. They took an X-Ray. The tooth wasn’t just cracked across the front but cracked in three places up in his gum. “We need a surgeon”, they said. They prepared a needle and stuck it in his gum. Duly a surgeon arrived from Cork University Hospital.
“I’m Mr X. Pleased to meet you. Lie back my friend and enjoy the ride.”
And he got his pliers and whatever other implements are demanded by his trade and started pulling out bits of shattered tooth from inside the gum.
“Worst pain I ever experienced in my life!”
He finished with six stitches. They had to open the gum to pull out the broken bits.
“That put me in a bad place, having a fella leaning on your chest to pull the broken bone out of my mouth. That was my first time ever being sent off. Look it takes two to tango. I’m the fella missing the front tooth, though! You have to put these things to bed. Park it and leave it go.”
IT WAS a month before the stitches had dissolved and his mouth was ready for a new tooth. A month without a front tooth. A month where he went from being a good-looking young player to looking like the village idiot. Amazing the difference a tooth can make!
The tooth business and the suspension gave him a bit of freedom for the hurling but when he came back to football the first game was against Dublin in Páirc Uí Rinn.
“I was bursting for road. Couldn’t wait to be back. It was mix and match then. Busy times for both teams. There were a couple of weekends like the one where people were wondering would I go to Derry for football on Saturday night and fly to Dublin for hurling the next day. Conor Counihan and Denis Walsh were very patient and understanding about it, though.
“We had a league, a good run. Played Tipp. That was the last game I was involved. Football went well. We were in the league final in both. I went to both but sitting in the stand has hard.
“I missed a lot of the qualifiers and people would say I was there for Kerry and then vanished when the lads were having the dog-fights with Wexford and Cavan and the like.”
THEY WENT away warm weather training just after playing Tipperary in the league on April fourth. He refers to it once or twice jokingly as Tropical Training but it was to Brown’s in Portugal. By then he was in pain from something else.
“It was killing me. I thought it was shin splints because I wanted it to be shin splints. I thought it was the old hard ground, soft ground thing. You can play through shin splints. You have a stress fracture and you will have to rest it up. That’s all you can do.
“It was a stress fracture. I got the bang early in the league. You rope it a couple of times. It will go black and blue and that will be it. Must be shin splints. Say nothing to nobody.”
Is that what you are supposed to do? Say nothing about an injury?
“If you are sitting on your ass with shin splints and there is a fella inside there playing very well you put yourself under pressure. You can take the pain of shin splints till they go away. And the fingers would have started wagging. That’s what you get for playing both.”
In fact the shin had a stress fracture from a bad bang early in the league. The crack was there. When they got to Portugal and the step up in training he couldn’t do it.
“When I was running on it it was like somebody was grinding a knife up and won my shinbone. When we went over to Brown’s to do the training I couldn’t do any of the running at all, I was limping very badly. Declan O’Sullivan got me straight into a gym programme.”
Home. More doctors and scans.
“You get the scans and straight away negative. This is bad: will I make the league final in the hurling? Ehm, no.
First round of the hurling championships? Looking doubtful.
“In fairness to Dr Con (Murphy), he met me and we went into the Bons on a Wednesday and we met with two specialists. They said it’s not all doom and gloom. We’ll scan it two weeks before the Tipp game ( May 30th)
– “So they did that?”
– “And what did they say?”
He looks up at the ceiling trying, it seems, to recall the precise medical terminology deployed.
“ They just said, drive on. See how you goes, Moose.”
“Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Going to training but not training. Talking to all the lads. They want to feel you are doing your recovery work. You want to feel part of it. Could have been worse. Later in the year and the season would have been wasted.”
Missing the finals was a glimpse of what life would be like in retirement. When you are 23 that’s like getting a glimpse of what it would be like to have a stroke. He shuddered and moved on.
“Sitting in Croke Park in the stands listening to people criticise your friends. You have to make the most of it when you are there. Both panels kept me very involved.”
LATE IN May. A big day after missing two league finals.
“We had a good win then against Tipperary and the morale lifts straight away. We learned the hard way, though, we can all play well in May. Tipp lost that day and people were saying Kilkenny had a bad league. Makes no difference in August and September.
“It was just a day that everything seemed to go right for the hurlers. The crowd were behind them. They’d had a full season without disruptions. A set routine with training and gym work. Everybody was going well. They went into that game confident.” Cadogan was majestic in his energy and aggression. Most people’s Man of the Match.
“The only negative for us was we didn’t capitalise on it. We didn’t match it once afterwards. I thought I did well. I had a little experience behind me. At the end of the day I’m not a child anymore. I was 24 last week and I look at the like of Noel McGrath playing in an All-Ireland final and inspiring fellas around them; 24 is time to be delivering.
TWO DAYS out against Kerry. The Paul Galvin fish hook. Cork losing the replay. The obituary written for the footballers. Of the finger in the mouth incident he wants to make no fuss. The uneasy feeling he has is the whole country is watching for the next instalment. And if there is a next instalment Croke Park will lower the boom on the pair of them. So moving on.
A week after the football disaster the hurlers played a depleted Limerick in the championship. A nothing game really. Pity to see Limerick that way.
The hurlers crossed the border into Kerry for a training weekend. Banna Strand. Bonding.
The waitress story. He insists it was a set-up. If so it was a good one.
They were eating in Abbeydorney. Having the craic at the table. Cadogan’s looks are celebrated on several continents so it was no surprise when the waitress cruised by late in the meal.
“How tall are you?” she purred
Cadogan smiled. Every head leaned forward. This is what it must be like to be George Clooney.
“I’m six foot two inches,” said Cadogan with the smoothness of Bond, James Bond. Not Michael.
A pause. Every breath at the table held and baited.
“And Paul Galvin beat you up?”
Uproar. He laughs now at the good of it. He heard it all summer. Hatfields and McCoys. Wear a gumshield kids, he says with a smile, and jiggles the tooth at them.
DRAWS SPANCILLED him all summer. Drew the football in June. Then the Munster hurling final was a draw.
“That pushed us on another week. I hear young fellas in the club and they have to be here , there and everywhere. I have no memory of being under pressure at any part of the year.”
More history. A Munster final replay. At night. A wet night as it turned out. The season turned in a moment of extra-time.
“The second night the bit if luck we needed wasn’t there. Dan Shanahan got a good old goal, alright. Bit of the slow motion. I remember I came out and tried to flick the ball off Eoin Kelly. It was like a system, flicked ball, Eoin McGrath flicks it on. Dan has it. He’s still out a good bit. I see him winding up. My head say no . . . he sticks it in the corner.
“Wet, greasy night. To be fair to Ogie ( Donal Óg) he nearly kept it out. That’s full back play, you get the ball and drive it 100 yards you’re a hero. It goes past you on a wet night you look like a plug.
“There was time left but I felt we were trying to get the ball down as fast we could. There was pressure. It was a pity to beat Tipperary and then to fall back. They defended for their lives. I remember seeing Tony Browne going to block, it bounced off his head he stood up, caught it and drove it down the field.”
Defeat put them on a collision course with Kilkenny.
“EVEN LOOKING through the diary the draws were holding me back. The next week I was available for the football was the Roscommon game. That was two weeks before the Kilkenny game and Denis was understanding enough.”
“Meanwhile, he had got a dunt in the back from marking Aisake and “his big gangly legs”. More resting up.
Kilkenny in August. Lowest point on the rollercoaster. Kilkenny dismantle the hurlers without really getting out of third gear. At full back, Cadogan draws the short straw. Richie Power gives the best performance of his senior career. Cork take the train home. Tails between legs.
“I was fairly down after that, alright. I suppose I should say who am I to be down? I was back training on the Tuesday night with the footballers for an All-Ireland semi-final. People would say, he would want to get his head out of his ass. I went back and I trained hard. We played a full scale game for 25 minutes. Donncha O’Connor ran me everywhere. It was only Thursday or Friday of that week that I even tried getting it the hurling out of my head though.
“Taking a beating like that does hurt. It sticks in your head. Kilkenny are a superb team. Four-in-a-row or five. And Richie Power gave me a rough day. I don’t know how many balls came in there but in the full-back line we couldn’t be leaning back on the hurleys waiting to see where was the next one coming from. They were dropping at a fair rate.
“I had to hold my hands up for the second goal I was at fault. I said it to Ogie afterwards . I left Richie in on top of him. Hindsight is easy. Richie really came of age this year. Real leadership when Henry went off that day.
“He stood up. Fair play to him. he’s only my age. I’m sure we’ll be coming across each other for another few years and I hope I’ll come out on the better side. It’s a learning curve. You learn from the bad days. You have to look back at the bad days.”
You hit him with the half a rumour you heard about that Sunday night, the tiredness and the emotion of it left many players Cowenised.
– “I heard you lost the tooth that night?”
– “The tooth! Ah no! That’s all lies. I have it here!”
– “Nobody had to go around a certain premises looking for it?”
“That gear bag has been a problem all year! I was back training Tuesday night like a good athlete.”
Two weeks later he was back in Croke Park. The Dubs. A full house. “Being on the field against Dublin was a serious buzz: 82,500 people. There was somebody down and the attendance came up. I remember during the national anthem, feeling it. This is where you want to be. This is why you practice. This is where you want to be.
“Ball came down. Brogan kicks another ridiculous point. Need to stop admiring him and drive on.”
They kept coming back, Cork did. Put 15 other fellas in front of that crowd and bringing that deficit back to win by a point.
A shard of memory. The game was ready to burst apart. The noise was deafening. On the field its temperature was on that part of the gauge marked White Hot. Cadogan looked to his right at the lovely shadow which the Hogan Stand was casting over one third of the pitch. Had a thought.
‘C’mon,’ he said to his marker, ‘we’ll stand over in the shade’. And Cadogan went and the forward followed him and for a few minutes they stood there cooling and recovering as the game beat on relentlessly.
“He followed me to the shade! I thought something is going right today. Might be a good year after all.” Tomorrow will tell.