BY KIERAN McCARTHY
HE has carved out his name on the GAA field, but Eoin Cadogan has another sporting passion – jiu jitsu.
His interest in this martial art began in 2011 when he was involved in the Irish International Rules squad. One night a week over a seven-week period, Cadogan and his teammates were put through their paces by John Kavanagh, now better known as Conor McGregor’s coach. Straightaway the Douglas man was hooked.
‘I enjoy it. It’s completely different. No one cares if you have one All-Ireland medal or no All-Ireland. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done. It’s a different outlet for me to express myself,’ the Cork footballer explained.
Five years on from his first jiu jitsu experience, his interest is still there, and when he can he heads to the Straight Blast Gym (SBG) in Dublin – run by John Kavanagh – for a session, often with Kieran McGeeney, who coaches there the odd night.
It’s more of an off-season treat for Cadogan, who feels – and pardon the pun – that jiu jitsu keeps him grounded, in more ways than one.
‘I’m an MMA (mixed martial arts) fan but I don’t do the striking side of things, I do the jiu jitsu side of it,’ the 29-year-old said.
‘If you take the striking aspect out of it completely – which I do – jiu jitsu is on the ground and all grappling. You have to be controlled in a very uncontrollable manner. If someone is choking you, you need to be able to think your way out of it, instead of just gasping for air.
‘For guys who are so technically experienced they are very humble. You leave your ego and your shoes at the door going in. It’s humbling to go in there, get continuously beaten and not be as good as you’d like to be, but from a tackling aspect I find it good because you have to use your hands a lot as well.
‘It’s not everyone’s cup of tea. There are different perceptions of it out there. It’s just a different avenue for me to explore.’
So, any chance we’ll see Cadogan in an MMA octagon any time soon?
‘No chance!’ he replies, quicker than you can spell MMA.
‘I don’t fancy getting the head punched off me by some fella – I get enough of that in the games that I play! I’ll stick with ground grappling.’
Trying to find time for jiu jitsu training these days is a challenge in itself for Cadogan, who is based in the north for work and who journeys south towards home for club and county.
On Mondays, he stays in Milford in Armagh. Tuesdays and Wednesdays see Cadogan setting up camp in Belfast. It’s back to Armagh on Thursday nights, before the drive down to Cork then on Friday evenings. Plus he rents a ‘halfway house’ in Dublin.
‘I’m living out of a suitcase,’ he laughs.
The 2010 All-Ireland winner made headlines 12 months ago when he was appointed strength and conditioning coach for the Armagh hurlers, and since then his role has evolved further in the Orchard County.
‘Last year my role, predominantly, was to work with the Armagh senior hurling team and take care of the strength and conditioning. That filtered down to dealing with some of the minor and U21 footballers at different stages last year,’ Cadogan explained.
‘Since October I have taken up a new role where I am now the strength and conditioning co-ordinator for school teams involved in the MacRory Cup and schools who have Armagh minors.
‘I am implementing and putting programmes together in these schools to make sure that they are doing the right type of training. Hopefully, by the time the players come through the development squads, the minors and the U21s that there is a profile built on them, not alone as an individual but an injury history as well.
‘Within the GAA, management teams can change every so often, as can strength and conditioning and physios, but this way at least there is a profile of the player. It’s a very progressive setup.’
Another setup Cadogan is enjoying at the moment is here at home in Cork, as new manager Peadar Healy puts his stamp on things ahead of the Allianz Football League throw-in this Sunday afternoon – at home to Mayo in Páirc Uí Rinn, at 2pm.
Cadogan lined out in his first game of the season last Friday night as Cork beat Clare in the McGrath Cup final, but now the serious business gets underway.
He doesn’t hide away from last year’s shocking All-Ireland qualifier defeat to Kildare in Thurles – a ground that, incidentally, is his favourite away venue – and he says that the Cork players ‘have to take more ownership and responsibility’.
He added: ‘At the end of the Kildare game last year there were a lot of excuses bandied around as to why we played the way we did, but ultimately we have to look at ourselves.’
The former dual player admits that Cork’s footballers must do better, and agrees that the Rebels need to be more consistent, but that’s easier said than done.
‘This year we are looking to create consistency within our performances. The national league is going to be a learning process for each individual and the management team, but if we get things right, hopefully the performances and the wins will follow,’ he said.
‘Once you have a collective responsibility and ownership within the group, ultimately consistency in your performance will improve. When there is complete honesty with each other that can only be a really good thing.
‘We are under no illusions either that the Cork football supporters, while they haven’t had many days in the sunshine recently, that we’d like to reflect how we are feeling in our performances and get them back onside as well.’
Cadogan also takes issue with the ‘underachieving’ label now attached to this Cork football team.
‘Someone asked me at the (league) press conference (on Monday morning) if I thought that Cork are underachieving. I asked him, “What exactly is underachieving? What is your definition of underachieving?” In my eyes, if you get to an All-Ireland final and you lose, then that’s underachieving,’ he said.
‘In the case of us not winning All-Irelands, it means there are 31 other counties underachieving. It’s a very broad term to throw out there and it’s a silly term to label Cork footballers with considering the success we had within a certain time period.
‘We are not foolish to think that we can rest on our laurels from what’s happened in the past, but we are learning every year.’
In a Southern Star interview with new Cork minor football manager Brian Herlihy, he expressed his concern that the fun was going out of the GAA with a win-at-all-costs mentality now prevalent. Your thoughts, Eoin?
‘I’ll put it back to you this way, if Cork are performing then you’re not going to write about fun,’ he asked.
‘The bottom line is that this is a result-based business. The media, in general, want results, the Cork fans wants results. It doesn’t matter if I am enjoying my football. I enjoyed my football thoroughly last year but unfortunately from a team point of view, the performances that we threw up at the end of the year weren’t good enough, for whatever reason that was.
‘If I asked you, “Did you have fun watching the game?” you’d say, no, you didn’t. That’s not what we as players want. We are at the highest point we can go to within football. It’s said that winning at all costs is not the right mentality to have and of course you should be having fun, but winning makes it a lot easier, doesn’t it?’