Kieran Kingston is back at the helm as the Cork hurlers go in search of a first national title in 15 years and Alan Cadogan believes he won’t settle for anything less than an All-Ireland.
The Tracton native has a long history with this current Cork side dating back to his time as a selector under Jimmy Barry-Murphy in 2011. Kingston took over the top job in 2015 before leading the Rebels to a Munster title in 2017.
However, much to everyone’s surprise, he stepped down following an epic All-Ireland semi-final defeat to eventual champions Limerick in a game regarded by many as one of the best ever.
John Meyler took over and continued where Kingston left off by collecting a Munster title but he too stepped down after just two seasons in charge paving the way for Kingston’s return.
Speaking at the launch of the Allianz Hurling League, Cadogan singled out Kingston for praise due to his commitment to Cork hurling. The inside forward also claimed that Kingston had unfinished business with the Rebels, hence his return for the 2020 campaign.
“Yeah absolutely, when John stepped aside last year, his name was obviously popping up and few of us as players, he was the one we kind of wanted to go after and once Kieran himself showed that bit of interest, we knew he was the right fella for the job.
“I’ve lost count now of how long he’s been involved with Cork seniors. As a selector with Jimmy Barry Murphy, a coach with Jimmy then a manager. Now he’s come back for his second stint as manager. You know, he’s very good with players, he’s a people person.
“He’s a players favourite but at the same time very cut-throat. I think he described it as an itch that needed to be scratched and that there was unfinished business from 2017 when he stepped away.
“Knowing Kieran, he’s not coming back just for the fun of it, he’s coming back to win an All-Ireland. Simple as that.”
According to Cadogan, Kingston knows that what worked for him in 2017 may not necessarily cut it this time around. However, the Douglas man is also aware that it is the players’ jobs to step up also.
In his opinion, the last three seasons, Cork have not been good enough.
“We’ve a long way to go and as I say, we might be a small bit behind the Tipps, the Kilkennys, the Limericks – they’re the benchmark. But look, we’re very happy with Kieran and he has a good support team around him.
“He adds people to the backroom team [who] add value. And he’s done that. But he knows if he does the same thing that he did in 2017, we won’t go any further. He knows he needs to bring it to another level and we demand that from him and his management team.
“But then on the flip side, he demands that from us. We obviously weren’t good enough in 2019, we weren’t good enough in ’18 and we weren’t good enough in `17, so again, we need to bring it to a new level for 2020 and do something different.”
When challenged on the claim that they weren’t good enough, Cadogan conceded that they were “there or thereabouts”. However, he is wary that time may be running out for some of the current squad.
“So we’re there or thereabouts but we can’t keep doing the same thing. Time is running out for some of us. I’m 27 this year, I’m in my peak years. It only seems like the other day when I was making my debut.
“That’s my advice to the youngsters – that it’ll just go like that (clicks fingers).
“You’re not guaranteed to come back into Croke Park. When I left Croke Park after the Kilkenny game last year, I just had a look around the dressing room. Even as a 26-year-old, you just don’t know when you’ll be back again. Whether that’s due to injury. Munster is so competitive, it’s a battlefield and you might not even qualify.
“We’re there or thereabouts but again, we need to take it to another level in order to progress and push on this year”
One man who is approaching the twilight years of his inter-county career is Alan Cadogan’s brother, Eoin. The dual-star stalwart is 33 now but continues to go to the well for Cork hurling.
According to the younger Cadogan, his brother’s drives comes from a passion and obsession for hurling that runs through them.
“Eoin’s back in. He’s giving it another year, he said. I’ve never seen him so fit and he’s really enjoying it. He has a very good pre-season under his belt for 33. But yeah, he enjoys it. Hurling is like an obsession in our household.
“You see a lot of GAA players stepping away from the game due to family, work commitments, their career etc. Being a teacher, I’m lucky enough that I have the time to do it. It’s an obsession. You want to be walking up the steps [of the Hogan Stand] to be collecting the Liam MacCarthy in August. But unfortunately, only one team can do it. So it’s an obsession for the two of us.”