KILKENNY DEFENDER BRIAN Hogan has backed the decision to hold the county’s recent training sessions behind closed doors in the aftermath of their shock Leinster final loss to Galway.
The O’Loughlin Gaels player has described the atmosphere as ‘artificial’ and ‘a circus’ at times when an open doors policy was in place and believes that restricting the Nowlan Park sessions to just the players and management has helped improve the focus for the challenge that lies ahead in next Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final.
“Obviously the rumour mill will be going into overdrive but the players are very happy with it because you’re not getting this round of applause when a back clears the ball or when Henry (Shefflin) scores a goal. I understand that people want to go in and watch it. But at the same time it’s a bit artificial, you get Spanish students coming in and they’re all roaring and bawling at the back of the stand. It can get to be a bit of a circus. You don’t need that.
“Brian’s very much up for promoting hurling, getting kids in to watch it. When the performances dipped, we didn’t really perform as we’d have liked against Galway, that was disappointing, and he just wanted a bit of quiet time. I think the players’ reaction was that they were quite happy with that. I think when he was getting that kind of feedback, whey open it then?
“Definitely it’s no harm. Obviously you’ll have the rumour mill going into overdrive that the likes of the elder statesmen can’t get in to watch training and they’re saying ‘they must be killing each other in there’. It’s just to kind of get the work done and not have the rigmarole that goes with it. It was getting a bit ridiculous with the cackle going on up in the stands.”
Hogan, who turns 31 today, has disagreed with claims that next Sunday is a defining game for this Kilkenny side.
“You can make that statement about every match. It was a defining moment for Dublin in the Leinster semi-final that they were going to put us to the sword. It was a defining moment for Galway in the Leinster final with a new manager in Anthony Cunningham and a young team. If we meet Tipp again next year, is that the defining moment?
“I don’t know. The way we’re looking at it, it’s an All-Ireland semi-final. There’s huge respect and rivalry there. The Kilkenny panel is evolving the whole time. You only have the jersey for a short period of time, you’re just keeping it for the next fella, that’s the way Brian has it. So I don’t really buy into the defining moment talk.”
Kilkenny’s Leinster final loss to Galway was the first reversal Hogan had suffered on the field of play in championship since commencing his Cats senior career, having missed the 2010 All-Ireland final. He terms the defeat ‘surreal’ but was grateful of the opportunity to bounce back.
“Surreal is one word for it. I won’t take anything away from Galway. They were outstanding, they hit the ground running and they never looked back. It was coming. We had beaten them in the last few years, beat them in the league, so they were going to come back with something big and they did.
“The extent of the defeat was disappointing. You can say we hurled better in the second-half but Galway had the game won and only needed to hang in there. We knew they were coming for war and we didn’t have ourselves right. That’s disappointing, we’re long enough on the road to know that and we’re not a young team.
“What we brought wasn’t good enough. We weren’t happy with how we performed. Individually and collectively, we weren’t happy with how we hurled. We went back to the drawing board, much like the league final the year before against Dublin.
“The one solace you can take from it, it was a Leinster final and we didn’t have to wait all winter to get a second bite at it. It would have been twice as bad thinking about it that way. At least we could get back out on the training field.”