It’s the tale of the two Richies for Kilkenny manager Brian Cody this week as he prepares his side for the Allianz Hurling League division 1A final against Cork in Semple Stadium, two very contrasting stories.
First there’s the loss of ace forward Richie Power, top scorer for the Cats so far in this competition, and by some distance (3-49, Eoin Larkin next on 2-16); then there’s the early return of Richie Hogan, badly injured in an accidental clash with Galway keeper Jamie Ryan only a month ago.
Brian was at the game last weekend in which Richie Power suffered his injury, his own club James Stephens up against Richie’s Carrickshock (won by Carricshock). Cody didn’t actually see the incident: “I was the far side of the field, didn’t realise Richie was on the ground for a while.”
When he did though, the first thought he had was that it was the dreaded cruciate.
“That’s the big fear for the player, for everybody, the cruciate, because it’s a season job. You’re gone for the year. He was certainly in a lot of distress. It was the classic way of doing the cruciate.
“He was up off the ground — he’s very good at getting up in the air — and he came down, landed [badly]; that’s the way. The potential for it [cruciate] was there.”
Thankfully, however, the news since is much better. A scan earlier this week showed cartilage damage as opposed to the cruciate and, on Tuesday, Richie had keyhole surgery. He’ll miss the league final but at least he now has a very good chance of being fit again for the championship, a Leinster semi-final on June 23, probably against Dublin.
“There’s a lot of relief obviously, the fact that it’s not a summer job,” said Brian.
“At least we know he’ll be back in whatever number of weeks, he will be hurling for the summer, thank God.”
The Richie Hogan story is even more positive, however, especially considering the seriousness of what happened. “He got a bad injury against Galway, a collapsed lung and two broken ribs. It looked like it was going to be at least six weeks but he came back last Sunday after four weeks and got through a club game [with Danesfort] well.”
So what happened in the meantime, a trip to Lourdes perhaps? Not quite — just pure grit.
“He is really determined, he came back strongly. He spent three days in hospital, got a drain into the lung — not a pleasant experience. The ribs were worrying because obviously that prolonged the thing but he says he’s not feeling the pain — fair play to him. What I liked about it was he wanted to play with his club on Sunday, it wasn’t a big county game or anything; I would admire him for that.”
While Richie Hogan’s return is undoubtedly a boost, filling the boots of the in-form Richie Power will take some doing. For the first time in many years, he had been completely injury-free and was showing the kind of form that had marked him out for greatness, even while still a minor. An injury now, an interruption to his season, was the last thing he needed.
“He has been excellent for a while. The difference this year was he was after getting a good run in training. He had missed out on preseason the last number of years with different injuries, hamstrings and so on — he had picked up a lot of injuries. This time he had got a free run, he was really going well and was showing the benefits of it. He is going to be sidelined from that for a number of weeks.”
Who’s going to take over the mantle now? When the teams met in the regular round of the league in late March Richie Power scored 1-11 of Kilkenny’s 1-15 in a losing effort — who’s going to fill that void? Richie Hogan (presuming he plays, and according to Cody he will only be played if there is absolutely no risk of him aggravating his injury) will probably take over the free-taking duties and has an excellent record at that, but Richie Power had been offering much more than just that. Eoin Larkin is very much a leader in that Kilkenny attack but the others — Colin Fennelly, Matthew Ruth, TJ Reid — are going to have to step it up, especially with Michael Rice and Aidan Fogarty also out, along with long-term injury-victim Henry Shefflin. It’s a very big ask for Hogan in the circumstance.
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