He’s one of two players that Kilkenny rely upon for inspiration, according to Ger Loughnane at least, but Richie Hogan should be aware that his place in the team is far from guaranteed.
That’s the blunt but probably accurate message from TJ Reid, Hogan’s forward colleague, who said that even if the Danesfort ace is fit for Sunday week’s Leinster final against Galway, he may not start.
All Star forward Hogan, the 2014 Hurler of the Year, didn’t feature in Kilkenny’s semi-final win over Dublin after breaking a bone in his hand while on club duty last month.
Reid said that Hogan has returned to training but isn’t playing full contact hurling yet and is rated 50-50 to be available for the Croke Park contest, a repeat of last year’s Leinster and All-Ireland finals.
Reid said that aside from Hogan’s fitness, the 1-5 from play scored by Jonjo Farrell on his Championship debut against Dublin, allied to the form of the Fennellys and Walter Walsh, means a jersey can’t be taken for granted.
“He’ll have to make the team,” said Reid.
“Six forwards hurled very well the last day so he’ll just have to fight for his place again and that’s just the nature of Kilkenny.
“Just because we won by so much or whatever, you can’t just be brought back into the team. He’ll have to be 100% right before he’s playing.
“He’s back training and might be okay. It’s still 50-50. He did break a bone in the hand that he holds the hurl with so there could be a lot of strength missing in the wrist as well.
“If he’s right, it would be great to have him. If not, we’ll just have to solider on without him.”
Reid suggested that Hogan would be worried by Farrell’s emergence as a strong attacking option. Ger Aylward had a similar stormer on his debut last year against Wexford and ending the season as an AllStar, displacing more established forwards.
Reid said: “I’d say he’d be worried, of course. Jonjo got his chance and performed very well.
“He’ll more than likely be there again against Galway. But I’m not Brian Cody either!
“Richie’s training away, doing all the runs, doing all the physical work but he hasn’t hurled. He’s pucked around alright. But it’s still early days, there’s another week and a half.”
TJ Reid was speaking at the announcement that he has signed a multi-year sponsorship deal with global nutrition company Herbalife. The company also announced a team sponsorship deal with League of Ireland side Shamrock Rovers.
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