A defiant Ken Hogan insisted that Tipperary hurling should never be written off. Indeed, following his under-21 team’s five-goal victory over Cork at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Wednesday night the Lorrha man explained how conscious his players were of representing Tipperary people.
“As Tipperary people we are disappointed with the way that things have come around,” Ken Hogan said.
“Obviously there has been a lot of criticism (of the senior team) there with people questioning player’s heart. We were very conscious going out on the pitch today that we were representing Tipperary folk and that we still have an awful lot of pride in our jersey. And, we also have the heart. You saw there, particularly in the second half, that when they came at us after scoring the goal that we came back really strong and worked hard.”
Since 1964, when the Munster under-21 hurling championship was first inaugurated, only on three occasions (1966, 1977, 1994) have Tipperary failed to make a minor, under-21 or senior provincial final in a given year. There was a very real danger of that materialising this year, that is until Tipperary out-classed a poorly-prepared Cork side at Semple Stadium.
Either side of the interval Cork hit 1-6 without reply to reduce the margin between the sides to a single point (2-9 to 1-11), but the Tipperary lads responded to the challenge in emphatic terms. Indeed, the Premier held Cork scoreless for the ensuing twenty minutes and scored a whopping 2-8 without reply.
“Yeah, (it was) convincing in the end. Hurling games are funny. We scored goals at critical stages of the game and the funny thing is that you are always hoping not to concede those types of goals. In summer hurling the ball is flying up and down the field and that can lead to high aggregate scores. The one thing you don’t want is a high-scoring classic.
“At minor level we had that kind of game. So, from our point of view we’re just absolutely thrilled. The lads worked very hard, very hard for the last couple of weeks. They are a very honest group,” Ken Hogan said. The Lorrha man is joined on the management team by TJ Connolly (Cashel King Cormacs) and Tony Lanigan (Holycross-Ballycahill).
Prior to the break Tipperary had surged into a ten-point lead, but the Rebels responded in kind and hit six points without the reply.
“The one thing is that emotions can’t take over at half-time,” Ken Hogan explained.
“You have got to look at the game as calmly and as carefully as possible. We said to the lads that they had been playing very well, but that we just had to get that momentum going again and to dictate the game. Cork dictated the game for the last five or six minutes before half-time. We went for it in the second half and made the couple of substitutions. You have to make those substitutions. There is no point in having guys on a training panel. They are there to come in and play on the evening. I could ask any of those guys (to play) and I could see many of those guys in the stand that didn’t get in how disappointed they were.
“If we can keep that bit of hunger going and desire to work towards our goal; we’re back in a Munster final, but there is no championship won and there is no silverware. A lot of those guys have played minor and under-21 and they have no medals. We are just striving for success,” Ken Hogan added.
In all this was a more than satisfactory display. The team featured a neat blend of workers, ball winners, man markers and sweet strikers. Indeed, this Tipperary side is as structurally sound as you could hope for with Andrew Ryan, Tomás Hamill and Séamus Kennedy in excellent form while corner-back Michael Breen was, once more, outstanding. Jason Forde and Bill Walsh enjoyed fine outings upfront while Niall O’Meara proved a relentless force throughout.
TG4 named Niall O’Meara, a prould Kilruane MacDonagh’s man, as the Bord Gáis Energy man of the match. No surprise there. The Tipperary captain and Kilruane MacDonagh’s man was exceptional.
“Niall showed great leadership,” Ken Hogan said.
“We picked him as captain and not because he goes around with a swagger or talks a great game. We picked Niall because you can see what you get out of him on the pitch.
“He’s so honest and he’s so open. He takes the hits and it’s just the very same as training to Niall. He goes out there in the match situation and he takes the hits. He keeps going; he pops back up and stays going again. Really you have to look to the future and hopefully these guys have a future with Tipperary. I hope they have a part to play. Hurling is still alive and well. There is still life in us. Don’t ever write us off,” a proud Ken Hogan insisted.