Kilkenny star keen to use final pain to make 2011 gains
JUST as he did for the All-Ireland final, Brian Hogan will sit out Saturday night's clash between Tipperary and Kilkenny.
This time, it's for happier reasons as O'Loughlin Gaels and their AIB All-Ireland club senior semi-final clash with Loughgiel Shamrocks on Saturday week command all his attention. Until that run comes to an end, Brian Cody and Kilkenny will have to wait.
An injured finger kept him out of September's showpiece and the run with his club has allowed him to reflect on four glorious years with Kilkenny, that reached fever pitch in the build-up to the last leg of the 'Drive for Five' when around 8,000 people watched Henry Shefflin and John Tennyson return to training after knee injuries had seemingly ended their seasons.
On the same night, Hogan busted a finger, and there was no coming back. "It was crazy. I went across to the hospital while the boys were training. I got the X-rays and came back and it took me about an hour to get to the hospital with the traffic and people leaving the park. It was just bedlam.
"I think it took on a life of its own nearly. There were guys coming from outside the county, all over the place, just to see us."
Kilkenny have long maintained an open-door policy at their training, where just about anyone can stroll into Nowlan Park and watch them work. And even though the level of attention on that August evening made the Sky Sports News team on transfer deadline day look apathetic, Hogan doesn't expect any change.
"That night was probably exceptional, but generally you get used to it. It's not an issue. In fairness to Brian he's always been consistent on that point. He has nothing to hide, he's a big promoter of hurling and I suppose the fact that people want to come down and watch you training, it promotes the hurling and he's happy to do it."
Cody rebuilt his side after the 2001 semi-final defeat to Galway -- only eight of that side started the following summer's championship opener against Offaly -- and a sixth championship defeat of his reign could tempt him to tinker with his team once more.
"Brian's not going to make changes for the sake of making changes," Hogan warned. "But guys probably know in their heads that the team has lost and think, 'There's a great chance to get in here now and make a name for myself'. It's as good a time as any to try and force your way into the team."
If anyone knows the value of a Kilkenny jersey, it's Hogan. Like club-mate Martin Comerford, he didn't come through the traditional route of making the county minor side. He made his senior debut in 2004 at centre-back when the Cats were beaten by Wexford in Leinster and he waited another three years before he got back in at No 6.
O'Loughlins' win over Oulart-The Ballagh in the Leinster final has installed them as clear favourites for the title. It's a tag Hogan should be used to after the last five years with Kilkenny, but now that the 'Drive for Five' is over, will the Cats' camp be a more relaxed one?
"There was never that much pressure to be brutally honest with you. Honestly there wasn't. It was something that was built up around us more than anything. We probably learned our lesson in 2004 when we thought too much about it, this whole three-in-a-row thing.
"This team, when we were going through, just said f**k it, let's win what we can win and the rest can take care of itself. We were gutted we lost but not because it was the five-in-a-row or whatever.
"In 20 years' time I might look back on it and say, 'It was a great chance,' but you're just gutted because you've lost an All-Ireland.
"If someone said to me the week after the All-Ireland that you'd be back for your club preparing for an All-Ireland club semi-final, I probably wouldn't have believed it. But that's sport I suppose. It has a funny way of kicking you in the teeth and picking you up at the same time."
Tipperary (v Killkenny) -- D Gleeson; P Stapleton, P Maher, C O'Brien, D Young, C O'Mahony (Capt), H Maloney, B Maher, S McGrath, G Ryan, P Bourke, N McGrath, J O'Neill, P Maher, T Hammersley.