BY NOEL HORGAN
HAVING made his championship debut with the Cork hurlers in an All-Ireland qualifier against Wexford in 2012, Damien Cahalane had to wait until last year to feature in Jimmy Barry-Murphy’s squad again.
He had been involved with the footballers in the meantime, but the opportunity to resurrect his career with the hurlers came about after Barry-Murphy and Brian Cuthbert agreed it might be worth a go to have Cahalane, along with Aidan Walsh and Eoin Cadogan, combining a dual-role at the top level in 2014.
The general consensus was that it hadn’t really worked out, so the three players in question were pressed into deciding what direction their inter-county careers would move in for the season ahead.
Walsh and Cahalane both opted to concentrate fully on hurling, and Cahalane, speaking in the wake of last Saturday’s victory over Clare in the Waterford Crystal Cup, admitted it was by no means an easy decision to reach for him.
‘You’d be torn between the two, and it was a very tough choice to make, especially with my family being football orientated traditionally, and having grown up in the city myself where it was mostly hurling,’ Cahalane said.
Difficult and all as it was, Cahalane accepts he had to make the call one way or another, and he says he’s really enjoying his hurling at the moment.
‘It does make it a little bit easier when you are focusing on one game in the sense that you can go and work on things individually on the nights you have off from training,’ Cahalane said.
‘You can work on your skill levels in the alley, go the gym if you feel you need to be a bit stronger, and maybe do an extra bit of running.
‘You don’t have those opportunities when you are jumping between two games, and, while it’s very early in the year yet, I’m happy with the way it’s working out so far,’ he revealed.
Cahalane certainly turned in a very assured display at full back last Saturday, but he’s fully aware he has no guarantee he’ll command a regular place on the team this season, especially with the likes of Shane O’Neill and Stephen McDonnell currently waiting in the wings.
‘There’s fierce competition for places in the full-back line, so it’s important to put your stamp on things whenever you get the chance,’ he said.
‘It ensures that fellas like Shane and Stephen are going to have up their game too when they come back, which I’m sure they will, because they are excellent players.
‘There are a few new guys pushing everybody on as well, and it’s always healthy to have competition for places so early in the year.
‘These fellas are definitely adding to it, and when you feel you are under a bit of pressure to hold on to a place on the panel, you know you are going to have to go out and give your all in every game, which is the way it should be.’
As can be gleaned from all of that, Cahalane’s decision to go with the hurlers this year didn’t stem from the belief that it would be more difficult to nail down a place on the football team.
It probably wasn’t determined either by the feeling that the hurlers might have a better chance than the footballers of garnering major silverware in 2015, as he suggests Cork can be expected to compete well in both codes.
Whatever the reason for it, Cahalane is hell-bent on putting his best foot forward with the hurlers now, and he’s obviously hoping to get another run in the final of the Waterford Crystal tournament against Limerick in Mallow on Saturday.
‘The management are looking at a lot of options at the moment, the panel is under constant review, but everybody is enjoying training, and it’s nice to be competing for a bit of silverware before the league commences.