Cathal studied at the Cork School of Music, University College Cork (taking a Masters degree in Conducting), and later, the College of Moscow Conservatoire.

He began his career as a chorus master for most of Ireland's major opera companies, including Opera Ireland, Opera Theatre Company, Anna Livia Opera Festival, Lyric Opera and Opera South, working on over fifty productions. In Dublin, he regularly conducted the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, Orchestra of St Cecilia, Dublin Symphony Orchestra, and the Dublin Baroque Players. Between 2001 an 2009, he was Principal Conductor of the Dublin Orchestral Players and Dun Laoghaire Choral Society.

Cathal moved to the UK in 2009 to take up the position of Chorus Master and Assistant Conductor with Grange Park Opera. Since then, he has conducted London International Orchestra, Covent Garden Chamber Orchestra, Southern Sinfonia, Charivari Agréable, London Repertoire Orchestra, Isle of Wight Symphony Orchestra, I Maestri, BYMT Staff Orchestra, London Medical Orchestra, and Morley College Choir, as well as being Musical Director of both Newbury and Billingshurst Choral Societies. He is also founder and Artistic Director of the Ulysses Symphony Orchestra, and its professional sister-orchestra, London Ulysses Orchestra, with which he toured China in 2016/17.

Having initially taught undergraduate conducting at the Academy, he now teaches Baton Technique and Orchestral Conducting to postgraduate choral conductors. He was awarded an Honorary ARAM by the Academy in 2019.

As a violinist, he continues to play professionally across the South East of England. Previously, he has played with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, the RTÉ Concert Orchestra, the National Youth Orchestra of Ireland and the Philharmonia of the Nations.