Damien Cahalane relishing busy summer
By Denis Hurley
As enjoyable as the new Munster SHC round-robin format has been for players, the physical toll remains inescapable.
For the hurlers of Cork and Clare, a two-week break ahead of Sunday’s final in Semple Stadium (2pm) has been a real luxury compared to the four games in five weeks before that as each county played each other.
Still, Cork full-back Damien Cahalane was happy to be playing games rather than training. “The most challenging aspect was just physical recovery,” he says.
“You are coming out of week one with a knock, you are coming out of week two with a knock and you are going into your third game and you are still not recovered from the knock you took in week one. It is a short turnaround but fellas are looking after themselves as best they can and trying to get themselves right.
“It is definitely very taxing, and thrown into the middle of it, fellas have work and everything else. The recovery thing, you are not a professional athlete. You try your best to prepare as a professional athlete, and as a professional athlete would, but with work and life on the side of it, it doesn’t allow for that.
“But fellas do look after themselves as best they can. If they weren’t, you would have definitely have seen a complete collapse in the third or fourth game.
“It is tough, but fellas would rather be playing games every week than training on a Sunday morning.”
Having missed almost all of the Allianz League campaign through injury, the opening Munster game at home to Clare was Cahalane’s first proper outing of the year, but he felt he was ready, thanks to the hot-house nature of Cork’s in-house preparation.
“For the first game, I think the big thing was that I didn’t have a whole pile of game-time under my belt,” he says, “but we had a good few A v B match scenarios in training so that would have been a huge help.
“You find there in training, you are always marking the best of the best. It is a good challenge and you know then going into Championship, there is no doubt in your head that you are marking some of the best forwards in the country down here. So you were in no doubt that you had your preparation done right.”
That match in Páirc Uí Chaoimh was a five-point win, but Cahalane doesn’t place much store in that in terms of Sunday. “I wouldn’t think the first match has any relevance, to be honest,” he says.
“I knew going into game one against Clare, we knew that we would have to bring our A-game to get a performance against them. And even at that, you are still not guaranteed getting a result.
“They have improved in the meantime and we are going to have to go up and beyond what we did the first day. It is a whole new game, a game on its own merits and we just have to try and get a performance the next day.”
On a personal level, the performances have been to a consistently high level over the past two campaigns. Cahalane attributes that to the input of Diarmuid O’Sullivan, who was part of Kieran Kingston’s backroom team, and the confidence gained as a result. “Growing up as a Cork supporter, Diarmuid O’Sullivan was always a huge figure,” he says.
“When you got to be coached by him then, you were extra-vigilant in taking advice on board from him. Definitely, everything that he has worked on with me over the last few years has been carried on this year.
“A lot of it came from confidence too, and that came from management and when I got a vote of confidence from the Cork public and that probably fed into how I was playing afterwards.”
It’s also a busy time off the field for the full-back as he has been getting his new bar Cahalane’s off the ground. Based on Hanover St in Cork, the hostelry has a sporting theme and its owner has been heartened by the reaction to date. “We are open nearly three weeks and it has been going great,” he says.
“We have had great support from the Cork public. I’m really happy with it, hopefully it’ll continue. I’ve done a bit of work behind the bar, but mostly I am managing the place.
“We have good staff inside there, that have given me a great opportunity to live out my passion of playing hurling for Cork and for the moment, that is the priority with the Munster final coming up. I have huge amount of praise and thanks for the staff for letting me do that.”
Of course, any such venture by its nature involves quite a lot of interaction with the public, but it’s not something Cahalane has a problem with. “I’ve had good support from the Cork public,” he says, “and, you know what, I don’t mind that.
“A lot of people don’t like talking about hurling outside of hurling, but at the end of the day, I am a sports fan as well, so I don’t mind chatting about Cork.”