Tipp ace Coghlan ready to eyeball old friends at Croker

WHEN he takes to the field for Tipperary in Croke Park this evening, Hugh Coghlan will quickly scan the opposition ranks for familiar faces.

There in the Dublin defence will be Ger Brennan, over on the sideline the manager Pat Gilroy with Mickey Whelan dutifully on his shoulder. Then on the bench is Mossy Quinn, Paul Conlon and Michael Savage.

The last time Coghlan graced the sod on Jones Road, they were all members of the one camp when St Vincent’s claimed club football honours in March 2008. Coghlan suffered severe facial injuries following an accidental collision in that game but not even that pain could dull his joy.

It is five years now since the Moyne-Templetuohy native made the gut-wrenching decision to transfer to the Marino-based club. Stationed as a garda in Clontarf forced his hand as he reasoned that the commute up and down the M8 was not benefiting him or his club. Coghlan has forged strong relationships with those St Vincent’s teammates but today he will be forced to park those emotions. He didn’t have access to a TV to watch Ireland AM last Monday week but it wasn’t long until the identity of Tipperary’s qualifier opponents was relayed to him.

“I was delighted to hear that we got Dublin. Every player dreams of playing in Croke Park against them, and given my St Vincent’s involvement, this is extra special. We were disappointed the last two years that our league finals have been on in Portlaoise and Longford. The majority of our panel haven’t played in Croke Park before so we’re very excited about this chance.”

In the aftermath of the draw, Coghlan dispatched a few texts the way of his St Vincent’s colleagues to stir up some banter. His St Vincent’s days give him an insight into the Dublin camp and he lavishes praise on those at the helm of capital side.

“Giller is a great fella, he showed great leadership when we won the All-Ireland club title. I don’t think anybody foresaw him getting the Dublin job but he did have the criteria. Mickey then is one of the best coaches I’ve ever dealt with. The saying method to his madness personified him. He had plenty mad ways coaching but there’s always a reason for it.”

He’s soldiered with them on several occasions but now Coghlan aims to plot their downfall. 2006 was his first year of inscription to the Tipperary cause and after a couple of tough years, he has been at the heart of the revolution since John Evans took charge in early 2008. The senior side have made substantial progress and at underage level they have flourished in claiming their maiden Munster U21 title back in March. That was a special occasion for the Coghlan family, with Hugh’s younger brother John central to the victory. With work preventing Hugh from travelling to Tralee, he spent the evening hunched over a laptop listening to Weeshie Fogarty’s commentary on Radio Kerry. “It was hugely exciting, almost nearly more than being at the game, because you can’t see what’s going on. I was delighted for John, he suffered tough defeats before that.”

On Tuesday Coghlan had planned to head to the JP McManus Pro-Am but traffic and weather issues deterred him. Instead he rested up and get focused on today. In Tipperary football circles, trips to Croke Park are rare. This is one he wants to make the most of.

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