Saturday 22 October 2016

Paul Kimmage meets Trevor Hogan: 'The worst of all things is not to care, and if the first step is actually giving a shit, then you're nearly there'

Published 12/07/2015 | 17:00

Former Ireland rugby player Trevor Hogan. Picture By David Conachy
Former Ireland rugby player Trevor Hogan. Picture By David Conachy
Trevor Hogan in action for Leinster

What's the deal with Trevor Hogan? He spends his entire rugby career, almost a third of his life, trying not to draw attention to himself and succeeds, admirably. There's not one blotted copy in 57 games for Munster; not one lurid headline in 59 games for Leinster and not one stinking report in four games for Ireland. He's the gentle giant, the model pro, who lets others do the talking.

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What? That's him being escorted to an Israeli prison in Ramla for attempting to steer a ship through the blockade of Gaza?

"I'm sorry, that's completely absurd."

What? That's him at a rally in Dublin lashing Charlie Flanagan and calling for the Israeli ambassador to be expelled: "OUT! OUT! OUT! OUT! OUT"

"I'm sorry, you cannot be serious."

What? That's him on Liveline arguing with Joe Duffy and the plain people of Ireland about our disgraceful attitude to Greece?

"OMG! Yes, it is!"

How did Trevor Hogan turn into Che Guevara?

These are the nuts and bolts of his life:

The fifth of seven children, he is born and raised in Nenagh. He attends the local CBS, joins Nenagh Ormond rugby club, and takes a journalism degree at DCU and meets his future wife, Claire Brock. In the autumn of 2002, he signs a development contract at Munster and earns his first cap for Ireland three years later. He joins Leinster in 2006 and spends five years at the province before his career is ended by injury.

It's Thursday morning at the Leopardstown Inn in Dublin. He sits down with a pint of tap water and within seconds of shaking hands, he is regaling me with some extraordinary truths from his life.

Two hours later, there's just one question I can't answer: Where has this guy been all my life?

Paul Kimmage: Trevor, I'd like to start please with the latest posts on your Twitter feed:

- four tweets about Gaza.

- a dig at Seán Kelly (MEP).

- four more tweets about Gaza.

- a dig at Ryanair.

- an RT (retweet) for the Irish Wheelchair rugby team.

- a dig at Pat Rabbitte.

- a NAMA tweet.

- a dig at Michael Noonan.

- two RTs for Yanis Varoufakis.

- a tweet about Greece.

- a tweet about Palestine.

- two more tweets about Greece.

- a dig at the Irish government.

Is it any wonder that you've only got 6,000 followers?

Trevor Hogan: (Laughs) Yeah, Claire keeps getting onto me: 'When are you going to tweet about rugby'. I said: 'This is what happens when there's no rugby on'.

PK: Okay, but consider the Twitter feed of one of your former Leinster colleagues:

- an RT for a sponsor

- a thanks to friends with a plug for a hotel

- a plug for a sponsor

- a thanks to Tommy Hilfiger for a suit

- another plug for a sponsor

- a tweet about a brilliant day with a link to a sponsor

- another thanks to Tommy Hilfiger

This guy has 600,000 followers!

TH: (Laughs)

PK: Isn't there a lesson for you there?

TH: I think, in fairness, the quality of the player is the difference, and the fact that I'm out of the game. I think as well when you're still playing it's harder to get away with so-called controversial stuff, or even political stuff. But I think they probably could push it a bit more. They talk about sport and politics supposedly being separate but for me that betrays all the values of sport. Sport and politics are interlinked.

PK: You made a good point about that recently in an interview with Off The Ball about the military presence at Twickenham for England games - that sport and 'certain politics' mix?

TH: Yeah.

PK: Hugo MacNeill (the former Ireland fullback) was on that show and spoke about his decision not to travel to South Africa in 1981. What would Trevor Hogan have done?

TH: Well, I would only hope that I'd have that . . . you would have to say 'courage' to do it, but imagine if you were a young player and were getting that opportunity? It would be serious pressure.

PK: And you're only thinking of yourself at that age?

TH: Yeah, it's the ultimate dilemma but I'd like to think that I would try to do what Hugo and some of those lads did. There's a great project to be done on that whole episode because there's guys that went and remain defiant for going. And there's guys that didn't go, and won't put the boot in (on those that went). And there's the IRFU stance as well - for me it was their responsibility, not the players'.

PK: The IRFU should have made the decision (to withdraw)?

TH: Yeah, but I still wouldn't absolve the players that went.

PK: Hugo described it as 'a personal decision'.

TH: Yeah, he does say that. He doesn't put the boot in and fair play to him but if it was me, and I had taken Hugo's stand, I would have been more aggressive. And if it was me, and I had gone, there would be a stain hanging over me and rightly so, because of what South Africa was. It was well publicised what was going on there, and when the IRFU's history is written there's no way of getting away from that. And you can draw parallels now with this Azerbaijan shambles.


PK: The (European) Games in Baku?

TH: Absolutely. There was very little protest from athletes - even the media treated it as if it was just a run-of-the-mill games - but it was an absolute embarrassment. Those athletes? Well done? I don't think so to be honest. They're going to look at themselves in 10 years (and think): 'What the hell did I do that for? Why did I go there? Did it really matter that much?' Now I can totally understand that mindset but it will, I think, haunt them. A great achievement and all but what's it worth?

PK: But you see you're wrong, no, it won't haunt them. They don't all think like you. That's your blessing, but it is also your curse.

TH: I don't know, I'd like to think that somewhere, some day that thought will occur to them.

PK: But isn't the reality, Trevor, that most athletes are self-centred assholes and never lose that? They look at their big car and the stuff they've accrued from the decisions they've made and don't look back?

TH: I think you could be right, but there might be a period of self-reflection when they're finished. Or maybe it's reflective of a wider society? Apathy, for me, is the curse. The worst of all things is not to care, and if the first step is actually giving a shit, then you're nearly there. There was a phone-in poll (recently) about Greece: 'Should Ireland participate in a bailout?' And 67 per cent said no! So is it just sport? Or do people across Irish society actually care? Now it was a loaded question and if it had been phrased differently, 'Should there be debt relief?' Maybe we would get a different response. But the question is designed to cater for people's self-obsession and their focus 'on my wallet'.

PK: That is absolutely true.

TH: So is it just sports people? Because I always say sport is a mirror of society. Do we just blame sport? Or is there something wider in society that produces it? But I do have hope, I wouldn't be totally negative, I think there are great passionate people who care about things, and those are the people I'd like to emphasise.

1 L'esprit d'escalier

During a dinner at the home of statesman Jacques Necker, a remark was made to Diderot which left him speechless at the time because, he explains, "a sensitive man, such as myself, overwhelmed by the argument levelled against him, becomes confused and can only think clearly again when he reaches the bottom of the stairs."


PK: Take me back to the beginning: tell me about your parents?

TH: My mother, Nancy, and father, Mike, come from a traditional mixed and rural countryside (background) of a Fine Gaeler and a Fianna Fáiler.

PK: Which was which?

TH: Mother was Fianna Fáil, and from a small family farm in Roscommon and my father was a bigger farmer (from Nenagh), a big blueshirt . . . kind of landlord class.

PK: (Laughs) You said that with more than a hint of contempt?

TH: (Smiles) Well, if you could choose your roots I would prefer to lean towards the Roscommon (side), the smaller tenant farmer, but that was his background, and they met and had a big family.

PK: How big?

TH: I had five brothers and one sister. The order was Marie, Mark, Brian who passed away, Leo, myself Ray and Ciarán. So there were seven of us, and my brothers more or less raised me and their influence was probably how I became interested in current affairs, and sport.

PK: Explain that?

TH: Well, Brian in particular, every time I saw him on the couch he would have the Irish Independent or the Sunday Independent or some newspaper open. He was passionate and interested in the world and I used to look to him and think: 'Yeah, you've got to care about what's happening'.

PK: So it wasn't the sports pages?

TH: It was everything. He started with the sports pages but would scour the whole paper and have comments on whatever was happening. And it was Mark and Leo as well - all of us would argue and discuss things.

PK: What did you argue about?

TH: The big thing growing up was Italia '90. There was a massive debate later about Michelle Smith, but I remember Italia '90, and that whole bandwagon in the country behind Jack Charlton, whereas we were a Dunphy household and (resented) what had gone on with Liam Brady and Dave O'Leary. So we had this siege mentality in our house of sticking up for Dunphy against the bandwagon . . . although I kind of have different thoughts on it now looking back.

PK: Why?

TH: I dunno, Dunphy is contradictory in a lot of ways - I think he was brilliant on that - but I see what Joe Schmidt is doing now with the rugby team and I'd kind of be more pragmatic and say it was all about winning. But back then, I think that was just our nature and we got into questioning the dominant narratives. And that has kind of stayed with me.

PK: That's really interesting.

TH: Yeah.

PK: So it's a family trait?

TH: That's where it came from, the brothers really. The parents stood back; they had different ideological views. My mother liked to see us questioning things, but they stood back and let us debate amongst ourselves, and become cynical and contrarian and not to just accept things.

PK: What about your dad?

TH: I'd watch him watching Prime Time or the news and he generally wouldn't comment but would sometimes pass the odd word and I'd know what his politics were. For example, any time Des O'Malley came on he'd say: 'The greatest man never to be Taoiseach'. (Laughs) So when I look back now, it was clear what side of the fence he was on.

PK: But you said he was the blueshirt?

TH: Yeah.

PK: So how do I square that with his admiration for O'Malley?

TH: Well, I wouldn't separate either of them ideologically.

PK: But your father?

TH: He respected anyone who stood up to Charlie Haughey - he was very critical of Haughey, and O'Malley wouldn't have been a million miles from Fine Gael, but he wouldn't be vocal or force it down your throat at all. I'm teaching now (at St Gerard's in Bray) and I can see the benefit of not trying to impose your views on kids, and to give them the freedom to find out for themselves.


PK: What was the Michelle Smith debate?

TH: The fact that most of the commentators were consistently standing up for her, and the refusal to even question (her performances). One or two of my brothers (stuck up for her) but as time went on we were against Michelle Smith.

PK: Which, again, wasn't the populist view?

TH: No, but we kind of revelled in that a bit. I think another factor was . . . We were in our own little world. We lived about two miles outside the town and I used to hate it. I wanted to be in town with the lads, playing in the street league, but it gave us the freedom to develop our own way.

PK: You played soccer primarily?

TH: Massively soccer.

PK: No hurling?

TH: No hurling. See, that's the thing, my brothers decided what we'd play; Mark and Brian weren't that good at hurling but they loved soccer. They even got to name us all - I'm named after a footballer.

PK: Trevor Francis?

TH: Yeah, and so is Ray after Ray Clemence, so that gives you an indication of the freedom my brothers had. I don't know if many parents would let their kids name their (siblings).

PK: (Laughs) I haven't heard of it before.

TH: No, so it was mainly soccer.

PK: What about school?

TH: It was a CBS and there was no rugby really allowed, and I wasn't great at hurling, so I stuck largely with soccer up until I was 16 and then played a bit of rugby when the lads invited me out to the club.

PK: This was Nenagh Ormond?

TH: Yeah.

PK: What was the introduction?

TH: I was growing tall and still very skinny and two of my mates, Kenneth Jones and Trevor Maloney, said: 'Why don't you come out and try rugby?' And I went out on a Tuesday night and it was just eye-opening. It was absolute mayhem! We were let loose for physical contact and from that moment I thought, 'This is for me'.

PK: What was it that appealed to you?

TH: In soccer you were always holding back (laughs): 'Don't go off your feet when you're tackling!' You had to be cagey and you had to be clever but (when I went to rugby) it was like being let off a leash - you could let loose any aggression and physicality you had. The coaches, Seamy Harty and Pat Whelan, were brilliant and there was a freedom about it that I loved.

PK: So you discovered rugby around the time you were doing your Leaving Cert?

TH: Yeah.

PK: What was your school experience like?

TH: Two subjects really hit home for me: History and English. We had a passionate English teacher, Danny Grace, and a passionate History teacher, Jim Minogue, and that definitely influenced me. I remember the casual interaction they'd have with us, and their passion - especially Jim Minogue. A phrase he often used, l'esprit d'escalier, the spirit of the stairs - always comes back to me.

PK: Explain it.

TH: The phrase originated with a man and his wife having an argument and one of them storms down the stairs (and stops) thinking 'I should have said that' or 'I could have improved that'. And it stuck with me because there have been so many times when that has been me: 'Ahhhh! I should have said that'.

PK: You're teaching now but you studied journalism in college?

TH: I reacted against religion hugely in school and vowed to myself that I would never get into teaching. I've nothing against the teachers or anything, and religion has changed now the way it is taught in school, but it pushed me away from considering that path and journalism became my main focus.

PK: What precisely was your problem with religion?

TH: My mother envisaged me being a priest.

PK: Really?

TH: I was earmarked - I think in most rural families there was always one - and was brought routinely to Holycross and Knock for three-hour Masses, and was an altar boy and all the rest of it, and the mother just overdid it with me. I started questioning the sermons and what was going on, and one day I just said, 'I'm not going'. I think I actually hid under the bed.

PK: What age were you?

TH: I'd say 12 or 13, because I wouldn't have got away with it any younger. But I remember the euphoria when they left me in the room and went to Mass without me.

PK: How did your parents take it?

TH: It didn't go down well, but I think with a lot of my other views since they've come to accept that: 'He's not religious, he's not going to be a priest - he's gone off the grid this lad. He's not even going to be a Fine Gaeler or a Fianna Fáiler!'

PK: (Laughs) A complete lost cause.

TH: A lost cause, so they cut their losses. But I was very militant, and would maybe even have been absorbed into the Dawkins approach to religion, which I have since come back against. I have massive respect for people who have religious views but trying to impose them on others doesn't work.

PK: Tell me about your decision to study journalism.

TH: I had an option to defer going to college for a year and it was one of the best things I've ever done. I worked in the meat factory in town and it was a great experience, brilliant.

PK: Why?

TH: Just seeing the reality of what goes on for working-class lads; the experience of getting up at half five in the morning, and getting a loan of the father's old Opel Kadett, and coming home that night in darkness, smelling of meat.

PK: (Laughs)

TH: It's the only job - apart from working in a bog and being on a farm - I've ever properly done. I'm still trying to be a teacher and haven't worked since but that was brilliant. I was able to play rugby and got into the Irish Youths (team) that year. And I got a few quid to help towards the rent in Dublin.

PK: Tell me about life at DCU?

TH: We'd hardly ever been out of home and just passing Newlands Cross was a massive deal for any of us. My brother, Mark, brought me to my digs in Drumcondra and showed me how to make one meal, spaghetti bolognese, and I became a man of routine: I'd train down at the local park, come home and have my bolognese and go to college. And that was how I lived for the next four years.

PK: Who were the other guys in your class?

TH: Well, that's where I met Claire, and she's with UTV. And Caitriona Perry has had brilliant success with RTé: Mick Brennan is (political correspondent) with the Sunday Business Post now, and Ciarán Cronin was a sports journalist with the (Sunday) Tribune. But a lot of people have gone into PR and for me that's the antithesis of journalism, and I had a lot of arguments back then with people who I could sense were going down that road.

PK: What were the arguments?

TH: The journalism you see now has become almost embedded and (I attribute a lot of it to) the way we were taught. There were some great classes - philosophy classes from Helena Sheehan, which told you to question and to challenge - but I felt some of the other classes were almost about 'accepting the line'. I think there has to be more room to put out an alternative but you very rarely see that now, even with Greece. Go back to Michelle Smith. There is always a dominant stereotype used to portray one side. They just take the easy option.

PK: Did you have a notion in your head about the kind of journalist you wanted to be? Or was it just a project during your transition to pro rugby?

TH: The rugby was still up in the air so journalism was the plan. Sports journalism was the natural option but I was conscious of how compromised sports journalists were - depending on players for info or insight - and I didn't want to be that kind of journalist. Political journalism . . . news . . . current affairs . . . was more my thing. And that's were I was going.

PK: You did some work experience at the Irish News?

TH: Yeah, basic day-to-day stuff covering whatever news stories were on.

PK: Does anything stand out?

TH: I did manage one front-page story on a member of the Orange Order - I can't remember the exact details - but he got into some controversial position around a July 12th march and I managed to interview him . . . Not a massive scoop but I was delighted to have my by-line on the front page (laughs). But it was brilliant to see how journalism works and how reliant even the political correspondents are on contacts and the network.

PK: You graduated in 2002?

TH: Yeah, I remember I was on the farm in late August and the editor of the Irish News, Noel Doran, rang me and offered me a place. I was delighted, buzzing, but I had to ring him back an hour later and say, 'Look, I'm after being offered a development contract in Munster'.

PK: The same day?

TH: Yeah, so that was the cliché of the crossroads: I'm at home in Ballymackey, rounding up sheep, and thinking: 'Am I going to be a journalist? Am I going to go back to Belfast?' And by the time we had the sheep rounded up I had another option and didn't take a second to even think about it. And I went down the rugby road for the next nine or 10 years.


Dr Liam Hennessy came down to us in Munster one time years ago to give us a talk on general fitness and diet. He had a dietician with him and at one point he advised us that we should have lots of nuts and seeds in our diet. And out of nowhere, the most quiet and placid man in the room, Trevor Hogan, piped up. 'This is a bloody joke!' We all looked around in shock because Trevor usually wouldn't say boo to a goose.

- Alan Quinlan,

The Irish Times

PK: Talk to me about your start at Munster and what happens when you enter the dressing room?


TH: Alan Gaffney was the head coach at the time; Brian Hickey was the forwards' coach and very influential for me. Paul O'Connell, Denis Leamy, Alan Quinlan, John Hayes - those are the players who shape you. The crack was huge there. You had (Peter) Clohessy and Mick Galwey floating around and (Anthony) Foley was massive as well. The culture of Munster, the humility, the work rate, just penetrated the place: the idea of discipline and unity, of respecting everyone but at the same time being ruthless in slagging, and cutting people down to size. There was no room for a questioning or challenging type of personality, you just absorb and you work. It was about proving yourself, keeping your head down and showing that you're able to hold that standard with them.

PK: And you submit? You shut up and take the coaching manual and just play the game?

TH: Yeah, that's the huge contradiction I suppose. I think in sport you almost develop a compartmentalised or different personality; it's self-obsessed and focused on you, and the team, and clashes with a wider personal view of expression, and challenging, and questioning.

PK: It's not suited to people who think too much?

TH: Yeah.

PK: It's not suited to really intelligent people?

TH: Yeah.

PK: But you're a thinker?

TH: Yeah, and there are thinkers there, the likes of Shane Horgan and Gordon D'Arcy, but those thinkers are always channelled in one direction. A good coach will incorporate those lads and facilitate them within the team but they can be a problem if they're not on board. If you have a powerful thinker in the squad, and he's at odds with the coach, you are going to have a problem.

PK: Were you ever at odds with a coach?

TH: I wasn't at that level.

PK: So you've got to be a name, a player?

TH: Yeah, you've got to be an international getting regular caps, and then you can bring the coach onside. When you're lower down the food chain like me, you develop and ability to (switch off): 'This is who we are playing this week'. And you do largely what you are told to do.

PK: Were you interviewed much?

TH: I did a few pieces with Peter O'Reilly and Brendan Fanning but not that much. I wouldn't have been wheeled out for press conferences that often.

PK: And when you were? Did you have to remind yourself: 'I can't say that and I can't say that and I can't say that?'

TH: Yeah, you are definitely aware of that. There was no social media back then and I wonder now would I be more vocal? I'd like to say I would but I probably wouldn't: I know the bubble, I know what it's like, and it's not attractive but they have to insulate themselves. You can ask, 'Do they care?' Yeah, they do care but they're just focused on the sport. Which is sad, but that's the reality.

PK: You spend four years at Munster, and five at Leinster when your career is halted by a knee injury in January 2011. Tell me about the end?

TH: Joe Schmidt came in that season, and I remember being really excited, but if you weren't on the pitch training with him you were fucked. I hadn't been able to run freely since '08, when my knee had got infected after a cartilage operation, but I stayed going and managed to play a few times under Joe. I played a match at Christmas and it ballooned up at half-time and I came off. I went to training that Monday and it actually just locked and Jono Gibbes (the forwards' coach) had to step in for me. I felt humiliated and embarrassed that I was letting everyone down but that was the moment I knew it was gone.

PK: I wouldn't imagine you were easy to live with at the time?

TH: I would have said horrible.

PK: Really?

TH: Yeah, but that wouldn't be unique. And Claire would say in general that I'm probably not great to live with because I'm so obsessed with what's happening in the world, and what's going on, and I'm so involved with things. That's not fair to others, to Claire, so she would have borne the blunt of a lot of that, and I'd be sorry for that, definitely.

PK: Retirement is a big moment in every professional sportsperson's life. Did you have a plan?

TH: I was lucky there was an insurance safety net for me, which gave me the freedom to go back and study. I recognised that journalism, for so many reasons, wasn't going to be a secure future for me, so I needed to go back and see what I needed to do to become a teacher.

PK: Tell me about your new life, because you went to Gaza how long after retiring?

TH: That summer. I retired in January but stayed on with the lads until the end of the season, which was great because they won the Heineken Cup that year. During that time I was collecting gear from the lads to take to Gaza and I was fortunate to get invited onto the ship because I knew someone. It was a brilliant way to transition in a way. I thought: 'Your identity is so much built on rugby but it can be built on other things as well'. And the passion I had for Palestine was great.

PK: How did that start?

TH: You could trace it back to the family, I suppose, and our interest in current affairs. And I saw parallels between Ireland's past in the plantations and the occupation of Palestine and how that evolved. I felt it was an opportunity for me to use my profile - I don't have much profile - but whatever I had I said, 'Look, if I can raise awareness about this it might help out a small bit'. We initially decided to make a big publicity deal out of it and did videos with Shane Horgan and D'Arce and Eoin Kelly from hurling and that got a lot of attention, but that kind of backfired because they sabotaged the bloody boat and we couldn't go anywhere.

PK: Sabotaged?

TH: We were in Gocek in Turkey, ready to go, and somebody dived under the boat and sabotaged the propeller shaft. We would have been in trouble if it hadn't been spotted before we left but it just shows the lengths they would go to keep the siege in place.

PK: You went back in November but under the radar this time?

TH: Yeah, no media.

PK: How did Claire feel about it?

TH: Claire in general is supportive of me but would like me to calm down. She will try and rein me in but allows me to be who I am without being an absolute raging nutcase. I'm sure she would prefer if I wasn't doing it at all but I don't think she would ever say that.

PK: What happened on the second trip?

TH: They got us 30 kilometres from Gaza, which was tough because we woke up that morning to clear skies thinking they had left the door open. So there was an immediate euphoria but then, on the captain's radar, these little green dots started emerging and they were the big navy warships.

PK: Were you looking at the radar with him?

TH: Yeah, he said, 'Okay, they're coming', and then these massive big warships appeared on the horizon and they released these Zodiacs, smaller boats that were very manoeuvrable and they chased and hosed us down.

PK: Hosed?

TH: They've got these big water hoses - there's footage of it online - that bust in the windows and sent water flooding in. After about 20 minutes the captain said: 'Right, we can't take any more'. So we stopped and they came on board, which was fairly intimidating.

PK: How did you feel when the water was coming in?

TH: Well, it wasn't great because I can't swim but we had lifejackets. The main thing was to keep cool when they came aboard because the Israeli military are very aggressive and can be trigger-happy. But we were confident they weren't going to shoot as such if we didn't do anything stupid.

PK: What did they do?

TH: They took our possessions, wallets, phones, and strip-searched some people - I didn't get strip searched, but it was eye opening to see the level of hatred directed towards us for even trying to support the people of Gaza. The prison in Ramla was about an hour away. We were there for six days. We had our own wing and it wasn't that bad but they would leave the lights on all night and try to fuck with you. They wanted us to sign this piece of paper that said we had entered Israel illegally when we were actually brought to Israel. It was mind games.

PK: Tell me about the phone call?

TH: We were allowed to make one call, three minutes, and told that a voicemail counted as a call. I tried to ring Claire first but it went to her voicemail. The governor looks at me (mimics an Israeli accent): 'If you leave a message, that's a call'. Then he puts the boot in: 'Maybe she is with another man'. I thought, 'I'll ring my mother and she can pass the message on'. So I call her and she says (laughs), 'Are they feeding you enough?' Rural mothers are obsessed with food! And I'm laughing about it now but its very frustrating that the siege is still in place.

PK: You were on Liveline on Monday, talking about Greece?

TH: Yeah.

PK: Joe Duffy was trying to draw you on a future in politics?

"Would you run for Sinn Féin, Trevor?"

"I wouldn't rule anyone out that's on the left side."

"Would you stand for the Labour Party?

"Unfortunately, the Labour Party needs to have an extended period for reflection . . . they're nearly more right wing than Fine Gael."

"Would you stand for Fianna Fáil?"

"No, I wouldn't consider Fianna Fáil."

"Would you stand for Renua?"

"Renua, for me, are Fine Gael lite."

TH: Yeah, I wasn't prepared for that.

PK: That was clever of him.

TH: Yeah, it made a headline ('Hogan may run for Sinn Féin') in the paper as well, but I'm still drifting out of that bubble since rugby and my focus is to get a job in teaching. I think it will be important to stand up and join a party at some point but not at the moment. Claire is expecting, and my insurance cover (from the injury) is up soon so I have to try and get an income and make a contribution.

PK: And you enjoy teaching?

TH: Massively.

PK: Have you noticed a change in how people look at you, or perceive you since you retired?

TH: (Laughs) I remember John Hayes saying (after the Gaza trip) 'What the fuck! You're a fucking mad man!' So I suppose it was a surprise to some people. But I'm not trying to just be known as someone who was on a flotilla; it's not about being known as anything to be honest, I'm just trying to find myself again.

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