Fascinating Donal Óg Cusack drill for 15-year-old Alan Cadogan explains his lethal first touch
Alan Cadogan is one of the most dangerous forwards in the game, and he credits much of this to the environment he was born into.
Older brother Eoin made his Cork senior hurling debut in 2008, a time when a golden generation of Rebel stick-men were still on the block.
Donal Óg Cusack was the orchestrator from the goals, but the likes of Tom Kenny, the O'Connor twins, John Gardiner and Sean Óg o h'Ailpin were all knocking around as well.
Alan Cadogan may have only been a sprightly 15-year-old at the time, but this didn't stop him from tagging along with Eoin to the ball-alley sessions organised for the Cork senior hurlers by stick-man supremo Donal Óg Cusack.
Unsurprisingly, It was a daunting experience for Cadogan to test his skills with the cream of the Cork hurling crop, but these Donal Óg Cusack masterclass' were a huge factor in the development of the young Douglas man.
"I remember thinking, 'God am I able for this? Will I be slowing them down?" recalled Cadogan in a brilliant interview with Vincent Hogan in Saturday's Irish Independent.
The 24-year-old revealed one particular Donal Óg Cusack inspired drill whereby all present at the ball-wall would divide into pairs before they played a game of "double squash matches with hurleys."
This involves hammering the sliotar off the wall, and then firing it straight back again on the rebound. It sounds like a great drill for working on reactions as well as getting the eye-in and honing that crucial first touch, as well as working on a player's fitness as they run over and back like a tennis player.
Seeing as you were in a pair, it also improves team-work and communication skills between players and that's what you need in the cauldron of a Championship game.
"And the best thing was they didn't take it easy on me. 'If you're in here with us, you're doing the same thing we do,'" was the Cork player's attitude.
Obviously, not every youngster will have the opportunity to practice their skills with the best hurlers in the county, but you could organise such drills with your team-mates, with your friends and improve each other.
Alan Cadogan was brilliant for Cork in their Munster final triumph over Clare, as his combination of pace, trickery and ball manipulation gave the Clare defence a nightmare - much of this confidence in his own touch comes from hours spent at the ball-alley in Rochestown.
Kieran Kingston and the whole of Cork will be hoping he's at his electric best in Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final against rivals Waterford.
You wouldn't bet against him.
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