Hogan: Midfield move a stroke of luck

Given the spectacular success of Richie Hogan’s move to the Kilkenny midfield, you might imagine it was a plan hatched with militaristic precision and timing by manager Brian Cody.

Necessity, however, and maybe even a little panic, was the mother of this great invention.

Recently named as Hurler of the Year, Hogan was an out-and-out attacker worried about merely winning back his place up front following injury last spring.

So when Kilkenny fell 10 points down to Tipperary in their Allianz league encounter in February, he was as surprised as anyone to be told at half-time he was coming on at midfield.

But, from there, the magic unfolded.

“I had been injured, I’d been out for 10 or 12 weeks with a cartilage problem in my knee,” explained Hogan.

“So I had missed all the early stuff and it was my first day back in the panel and we were losing by 10 points to Tipperary.

“At half-time they switched things around, and put Lester Ryan from midfield to centre-back and called my name out for midfield.

“So I was never told or asked to do anything, it was just go out and play away for the second half.

“It went well for me then and I suppose as long as it was going well, I was left to play there.”

Hogan is being modest, of course. It didn’t just go well, his move had the same sort of inspirational effect on the team as ‘Cha’ Fitzpatrick’s identical switch from attack to midfield eight years earlier.

Excelling at midfield was a seismic achievement given Hogan’s lack of experience in the sector and diminutive proportions, which appeared to have pigeon-holed him as a nippy corner-forward.

“I never expected to be playing out there, to be honest,” he continued. “I’d never played out there before in my life in any grade.

“I was always somewhere in the forwards between centre-forward and full-forward in all grades. So I never appeared out there at all.

“I don’t know, I wouldn’t have believed it if someone had suggested a few years ago this would happen.

“I always pictured myself as a forward. But, look, I suppose the way hurling is gone, you need the same attributes now in every position.”

So does Hogan see himself now as an out-and-out midfielder?

“I don’t see myself as anything,” he replied. “I’m very comfortable playing anywhere from eight to 15. And if I’m called out at 15 or at eight, I’m just as happy.

“With my club I always played in the forwards so I would always think like a forward. Sometimes that can be a bad thing in the middle of the field because my first instinct if I’m in space 65 yards out is to shoot. That’s great as a forward but it’s not always the best thing to do as a midfielder so I did have to learn the hard way. But midfield/forward, honestly, it doesn’t make a difference to me any more.”

Hogan isn’t being coy when he suggests he’ll be happy to get any jersey again in 2015. He may be Hurler of the Year but Brian Cody will take that honour with a pinch of salt when it comes to selecting his team.

The long-serving manager even took Hogan out of midfield for the All-Ireland final replay, starting him at centre-forward despite his great work all summer at number eight. Hogan scored Kilkenny’s first two points but was eventually substituted, an experience that has taught him nothing is sacred in Kilkenny.

And yet the public will expect great things from the reigning Hurler of the Year in 2015, exerting a new level of pressure on him.

“Yeah, I suppose that’s true,” said the Danesfort man. “Definitely I want to improve and get better next year and move on again from where I was this year. That would be great and I think it’s possible. There’s definitely lots of things I can improve on.”

He will attempt to do so without the company of retired quartet Tommy Walsh, David Herity, Brian Hogan and Aidan Fogarty.

The retirements surprised Hogan but he insists the team can continue to thrive. “When I was a kid, people used to say that when DJ Carey left, Kilkenny wouldn’t win a thing but we won maybe seven of the next nine All-Irelands so it doesn’t work like that.”

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