KIERAN McCARTHY explains why Cork football needs Damien Cahalane more than hurling does
IT’S almost six years since Damien Cahalane played his last football game for Cork. He came on as a sub in the 2014 All-Ireland SFC quarter-final loss to Mayo at Croke Park. That was his second, and last, season with the Rebel senior footballers.
In November 2014 the dual player committed to the Cork hurlers and that’s been his inter-county home ever since. The footballers’ loss was the hurlers’ gain – but he is a better footballer than he is a hurler.
Watch him in action for Castlehaven. It’s then you realise how good he is, and how much better he could have become if he committed to football rather than hurling. His medal haul – three Munster SHC titles – will suggest he made the right call, but he had the potential to become a far more central figure in the footballers’ story.
He would have been a leader, a talisman and one of top footballers in the country. Right now he is still one of the best footballers in the county so imagine how good he might have been if he had concentrated on the big ball?
In football, centre back is his best position. That’s his home. This is where Castlehaven will hope he can drive them on from this season. He has the physical strength to handle himself and others, snapping at the breaks around the middle third. Chest puffed out, he also has a cutting edge that Cork football teams have lacked in recent times. That’s not surprising when you consider his football stock; his father, Niall Cahalane, was as tough and hard as they came on the football field. That’s been passed down to the next generation.
Damien Cahalane, who turns 28 this month, is one of the best kick passers of a football in the county. He can also score from distance, too. He has a lot of what Cork football has missed in recent years. Again, watch him in action for Castlehaven. Then you’ll appreciate what might have been. Against Carbery Rangers, he was in third gear, but still impressed.
When you look at the current Cork senior football team, moving in the right direction after years of drifting, it’s not hard to imagine Cahalane at centre back, with Liam O’Donovan and Mattie Taylor either side of him. He’d be one of the first names on the team-sheet. Contrast that with the Cork hurlers last season when he played 60 minutes out of a possible 280 in the Munster senior hurling championship.
Cahalane was a used second-half sub against Tipperary, an unused sub against Limerick, didn’t feature at all against Waterford and came on as a half-time sub against Clare. Compare that to 2018 when he started all five Munster SHC games at full back as Cork defended their title.
It’s easy to understand why Cahalane opted for the Cork hurlers in 2014. The hurlers have the pulling power. It’s the trendier of the pair and carries the better chance of success. He has those three Munster SHC winner’s medals. And there have been plenty of highs in there too and memorable moments, like his charge out of defence late in the 2017 Munster SHC final against Clare when he soloed up field to set up a score for Alan Cadogan.
Still, he would be worth more to the Cork footballers than the hurlers.
At club hurling level with The Barrs he is indispensable; they need two of him, one at centre back and the other at centre forward. With Castlehaven footballers, again he is indispensable; he’s a commander, a rock and a launch pad. At inter-county level, he would be more indispensable to the footballers than the hurlers, and that would have fed the legend in years to come.
It will be interesting to see how much Kieran Kingston uses Cahalane with the Cork hurlers this season. Would another season as a sub be enough to give football a second chance? In the past he said he didn’t want to be seen as a hurling failure. And he won’t be. But he could be a football hero.