The best finisher I've ever played with moves out to the middle of the field
Peter Hogan is the best finisher I've ever played with.
Let me re-phrase that. Peter Hogan is the best finisher I've ever sat on the bench and watched, jaw dropping to the grass, Hogan rifling sliotars nowhere else other than the top corner of the net. There was a time when we were teammates on the DCU freshers and subsequently, Fitzgibbon Cup hurling teams and if DCU were looking for magic, if they were looking for a match-winner, there was only man for the job and that was the little left-handed magician from Ballygunner.
He'd latch onto a breaking ball quicker than defenders could say their names and goalkeepers would get the same splitting headache, as they looked at the sliotar hanging in the roof of their nets. You'd come back to Tipperary where parents and teammates would ask 'who's the best fella up there, who are we going to hear tell of in a few years?' Along with a couple of others, not only because of the talent but more-so because of the attitude, the answer always started with a man from Waterford.
Peter was class but he had the modesty of a sub. In fact, you always got the sense that, more than anyone on the team, he was consumed by the game and completely and totally dedicated to his hurling. That's why, as you'd tune into the Waterford under-21 and senior teams to see Peter tipping away rather than lording it, you'd find yourself holding out for that little bit more. That's why, when it soon became apparent that Hogan had suffered from his own dose of hamstring hell, a number of tears holding him back for club and county, you shook your head for a man who didn't deserve anything remotely related to that sort of bad luck.
They say that the cream always rises and even though it must have been soul destroying at times, as hamstrings forced him off and forced him out, set him back and slowed him down, his club manager in Ballygunner Darragh O'Sullivan says that, even at the worst of times, there was never any danger of this hurler giving up the ghost. Right now, as he runs the Waterford show as one of the most exciting players in the championship, it's clear that Peter Hogan, who works as a manufacturing engineer but trains like a 'professional,' is exactly where he belongs.
"We had to take Peter out of a few games down through the years because of his hamstrings. We had to take him off, his hamstring was done that day we went down the stretch against Borris-Ileigh and he was a huge, huge loss for us. He'd been struggling with it coming into that match but he had been struggling with the hamstrings for a few years and that would have been a real frustration for him," says O'Sullivan.
"But Jesus Peter does everything right and that's why he's come back to make his breakthrough. From a nutrition, gym perspective, practicing, everything, he ticks every single box that's there. There's no question about his commitment to every aspect of the game, sure he's a professional really, in everything he does, it's as simple as that.
"That he's got a clean run at it now from injuries has made a massive difference for him this year. And if you look at the key attributes that he has, which is work-rate, pace, coming off the shoulder, that fits very well with the way Waterford play. Peter has been in there four or five years and having got bits and pieces, this is his first time to become a really established player. Ah we're all thrilled for him to be honest with you," O'Sullivan adds.
A corner forward by his deadly nature, it comes as a surprise that a move to midfield was what brought the best out of Hogan but given his speed, his skill and his general hurling smarts, it's easy to see where Liam Cahill got the brainwave from.
"In fairness to Liam Cahill," O'Sullivan says, "he has re-invented Peter as a midfielder, whereas we would have been playing him in the inside line or in the half forward line. At times, he would have been out around midfield for us, but we would never have picked him at eight or nine. In fairness, in Ballygunner, we're big into our tackling and turnovers and even though Peter would have been inside or in the half forward line, the reality was that himself and Tim O'Sullivan were always right at the top of those lists."
"He's an absolute team player in that regard."
"When Peter was inside with Dessie, he'd move away and often times just create space for Dessie, that's how selfless he is. It's great to see him now breaking the lines, popping off the shoulder because he's brilliant at it," adds O'Sullivan, who was hugely complimentary of Liam Cahill and his management team.
"Liam has done a tremendous job with the lads, they're continually evolving, improving and Peter exemplifies that really. It's a big ask for them this weekend, but Waterford have a chance. They'll have momentum and confidence after the last three games. It'd be like something that would happen if we beat Limerick now and lose to Kilkenny in the final wouldn't it?" he adds with a laugh.
We'll leave the last word to GAA Hour pundits Colm Parkinson and Paul Murphy who say that, in moving Peter Hogan out to midfield, Liam Cahill has changed the game.
"Because Hogan and Prendergast are lighter than other players, a lot of managers would go 'okay, corner forward.' It's great that Liam Cahill has looked at it, saying this is the way we want to play - a lot of managers would want big men up the middle, but these boys can move, they're skilful and they won't burn out. The likes of Hogan and Prendergast now, they know their job, to tackle, to run, to score, and they just seem to love it. Now, every county wants a Peter Hogan," says Paul Murphy.
"It's at that stage now, Tipperary are like 'I'll trade you a Noel McGrath and a Jason Forde for a Peter Hogan and a Jack Prendergast.' That's the way hurling has changed," added Parkinson.
And if you don't change with it, men like Peter Hogan will leave you behind.