Sunday 23 September 2018

I'm still here . . seven years later

Having dealt with his Celtic rejection, Portlaoise's sharpshooter Cahillane has sights on Leinster glory

Portlaoise's Paul Cahillane celebrates scoring his side's third goal in their Leinster Club SFC semi-final victory over Longford's Emmet Óg Killoe
Portlaoise's Paul Cahillane celebrates scoring his side's third goal in their Leinster Club SFC semi-final victory over Longford's Emmet Óg Killoe
Ballyboden St Enda's Michael Darragh Macauley and Portlaoise's Paul Cahillane ahead of this Sunday's AIB Leinster Club SFC Final. For exclusive content follow @AIB_GAA and facebook.com/AIBGAA

"Bad memories," says Paul Cahillane, recalling that time in 2008 he arrived back to Portlaoise, aged 19, having trialled and failed with Celtic.

During those three years in Glasgow, he "grew up fast," but coming home with his dreams of a life as a professional footballer in tatters and not so much as a Leaving Cert to his name to start again didn't do much for his naturally high self-belief.

"I do remember that it was very tough. I didn't know what to do with myself," Cahillane says, ahead of his appearance in yet another AIB Leinster club final final on Sunday against Ballyboden St Enda's.

"I have a fairly positive attitude. I did believe I was going to get back. I did believe, maybe I was a bit naive and a bit young at the time, that with a few years of football in Ireland I'll get back over, and I still believe that if I'd went that way about it I would have.

"The one thing my dad had said to me, we had made an agreement that if it doesn't work out, I would go back and do my Leaving Cert.


"So we both sat down and looked at things...there were a few contract offers from League of Ireland, full-time contracts because there were a lot of teams full-time at the time and we said 'no'.

"The first thing I did was my Leaving Cert."

Which begins the story of how he became a teacher in Portlaoise CBS.

The yarn about how Cahillane fell back into Gaelic football and why he's still at it is more straight forward.

"I ended up playing the U21 championship for Portlaoise because the lads were getting onto me about that, because they hadn't won one in ages," he remembers.

"I played a bit with the Laois 21s during my Leaving Cert year. Then I did the Leaving Cert and John Mulligan, the Portlaoise (senior) manager, said to me 'just give us one year….one year'.

"He said: 'you can go back to the soccer after that'.

"And here I am seven years later," he laughs. "Still going!"

Cahillane is, he insists, a "dual player".

The only difference is that his other sporting dalliance is with soccer, rather than hurling.

This year, he played half a season with Wexford Youths and won a Division 1 title and promotion, an involvement that took him away from the Laois senior set-up.

With his former Portlaoise manager, Mick Lillis, at the helm in 2016, it's likely that Cahillane will have a decision to make just as soon as his club involvement ends.

"I've definitely not closed the book on it," he confirms.

"It didn't work out over the last couple of years, the soccer took off and I just went with the flow.

"If I am lucky enough to get a call in, I will have to sit down and weigh up what I want to do next year.

"But," he adds, "that conversation is a long way down the road."

For now, it's Portlaoise, the club whose strikerate in Leinster amounts to two from their nine county titles so far.

By way of some explanation, Cahillane points out "we haven't beaten the Dublin champions since we won Leinster, (in 2010) and we haven't lost to another team (from another county) in Leinster since then.

"I suppose," he explains, "we have to appreciate that we unfortunately are in the same province as the Dublin teams and Dublin have got their foothold in intercounty level and they have done it at club level (also).


"Every second year they are in the All-Ireland final, so it's not easy.

"Obviously we want to have more Leinster Championships because we are a seasoned enough team in Leinster now.

"Are we going to do it again on Sunday? I don't know.

"Hopefully," Cahillane continues, painting his team as outsiders, "but you have to appreciate the mammoth task ahead of us.

"You are playing a team that has taken apart St Vincent's on the day, took down the Brogans and Plunkett's, tore strips off Kilmacud Crokes, at times, and put St Loman's (Westmeath) and St Pat's (Louth) to the sword.

"Two teams that we struggled over in Leinster. We have played against teams who haven't had massive success in Leinster of late so we are 100 per cent obviously the underdogs coming into it.

"But there is always an underdog story that turns around and maybe, just maybe it will be us this weekend.

"I have no doubt we will perform. I really feel, the amount of years we have been going, we will perform.

"Whether it's good enough on the day is another question," he adds, "we're playing against a quality side."

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