"If a Tipp or Limerick bus had bottles of beer on it, and lads were swigging a few, it would be absolute mayhem." 9 months ago

"If a Tipp or Limerick bus had bottles of beer on it, and lads were swigging a few, it would be absolute mayhem."

Ken Hogan remembers the 'céad míle fáilte' the Tipp boys used get down in Wexford and he can't help but think that those were the days.

Hogan played in a very different era to his son Brian and as he compares the past and the present, apples and oranges come to mind. That's not to say he doesn't like the way the game has gone, it's just the small things that get him, the things that have gone over the top.

Advertisement

As a top level hurling manager - he's won county titles in Offaly and Laois and managed Tipperary at various levels - Hogan has embraced and will continue to embrace the game's changes and improvements but that's not to say he agrees with all of it. Hogan feels that, in expecting inter-county players to live lives as quite as monks - especially during the winter months - there is a danger of the enjoyment being taken out of the game.

"In fairness to every manager that I played under, they demanded commitment, we gave as much commitment as we possibly could," Hogan says of his Tipperary career that spanned from 1987 to 1993.

"But there was always room there for - particularly in the winter months - to enjoy yourselves. National League games weren't really taken as seriously for example. You played the game, there was a social aspect afterwards to the match. We often spoke about going down to Wexford, to Enniscorthy, to Belfield, and playing matches there.

"And by God, you'd get a céad míle fáilte after the game. You'd go down to Murphy Floods Hotel afterwards, and the craic was mighty. A few of us even ended up coming home on a Monday morning. That's how good a welcome you'd get. From that perspective, you see the lads now, the commitment they put into it, and they're so committed in the way they approach the game," he added at the launch of this year's Allianz Leagues.

Advertisement

"I saw Jurgen Klopp coming off the bus last week after Liverpool playing a game, and he gave a few bottles of beer to lads that were outside looking in. If a Tipperary team bus or a Kilkenny or Limerick team bus had bottles of beer on it, and lads were swigging a few bottles, it would be absolute mayhem.

"It would be all over the airwaves. But in the GAA scene, it's taken so seriously at this stage, sometimes maybe to the detriment of the enjoyment and the overall satisfaction you get out of the game."

Advertisement

Hogan, who managed Offaly club St Rynaghs to the last three county senior hurling titles in a row, feels his neighbours are on the way back up.

"Michael Fennelly has a solid backroom team there.

"I went into the game in Birr against Dublin - they’re setting high standards as well - and Offaly acquitted themselves well that day. The problem for Offaly is the tough fixtures, Galway in an away game to start off. Henry too will be smarting after a defeat to Dublin in the Walsh Cup.

Then Offaly have Cork in Birr. I just hope the weather holds up and we get a great game in Birr because in Offaly, they see Birr as the real home of hurling in Offaly and there’ll be a huge crowd there because there’s a huge hunger for success in Offaly again."

Advertisement

Hogan with sons Brian and Cian after winning the Ryan Cup with Maynooth.

That run with St Rynagh's came to a heart-breaking end at the start of December when, in clawing back a two point lead, Ballyhale rose from the dead to knock the Banagher team out of the Leinster championship. The Kilkenny kingpins did the same to St Thomas' more recently and as a manager, Hogan can't help but admire the club's knack of playing the game right into its dying moments.

"The funny thing about it is, talking to the Ballyhale lads after the game, there’s no secret," Hogan says.

"We all know Ballyhale, an unbelievable club and the honours they’ve won, so we know what they’ve achieved, we know how good they are.

Advertisement

"With Ballyhale you just don’t give them that opportunity because once the ball lands in the square, with Cody, TJ, Adrian Mullen, Colin Fennelly around, something is going to happen and unfortunately it did. 

"The Ballyhale ethos is just to stay in the game. They keep hurling, they stay working until the very end, they know they can manufacture scores. Deep down it’s like playing a squash game and you’re 8-7 down, you know you can get to nine before the other guy gets to eight. Ballyhale are the very same, they know they can get that critical score at the last play. It’s like Nadal in the tennis, whether it’s match point or game point, he knows if he gets it, back, he’s back in it.

"In every sport, you get opportunities and we felt we didn’t take the opportunities, St Thomas’ will think the same but Ballyhale, it’s in their DNA to keep plugging away. Adrian Mullen got the equalising goal with Kilkenny against Cork, they just have great resolve, that inner belief that they can do it. So it’s over the shoulders, it’s not the bodies, it’s the heads. It’s that ingrained knowledge that we can still score with time up."