BY MICHAEL O’LEARY
The retirement from Inter-County Hurling of Richie Hogan brought down the curtain of an illustrious career with The Black and Amber of one of the most skilful players of his generation.
Richie was marked out for greatness from a very young age as he was a very special talent, and having just turned Sixteen in 2004 he was part of the Kilkenny Team that lost out to Galway following a replay in the All-Ireland Minor Final.
In his final year with The Kilkenny Minors in 2006, Richie also appeared with The Kilkenny U-21s as he made a vital contribution to their All-Ireland triumph. The Danesfort clubman scored a rescuing last gasp levelling goal to force a replay that Kilkenny won 1-11 to 0-11 as Richie’s brother Paddy scored the all important goal.
2006 was a very special year for Richie and Danesfort as managed by former All-Ireland Senior medal winner Adrian Ronan they defeated Tullogher-Rosbercon to win their first Junior County title since 1930, before going on to win The Leinster Junior title followed by All-Ireland glory in early 2007.
Richie joined The Kilkenny Senior set-up in 2007, before making his Championship debut against Offaly in the Leinster Championship Semi-Final the following year in 2008.
Another U-21 All-Ireland followed also in 2008 as Kilkenny completed The All-Ireland winning Grand Slam having also won Minor, Senior and Intermediate.
Richie played a 5-star role as he scored 1-10 in Kilkenny’s epic 2-26 to 4-17 League Final win against Tipperary after extra-time in 2009, as the modern day rivalry between Kilkenny and Tipp had begun.
He would be a central figure to clashes between the two counties over the following decade.
His first All-Ireland Senior Final start was in 2009 against Tipperary as he scored 0-2 in helping the county to a historic 4-in-a-row.
An attempt to win a third U-21 All-Ireland Medal just came up short a week later, as Kilkenny lost by a solitary point to Clare who were winning The U-21 All-Ireland for the very first time.
Following the disappointment of losing the 5-in-a-row in 2010 to Tipperary in the All-Ireland Final, the Cats bounced back in 2011 as Richie began to become a permanent member of the Kilkenny starting 15. He scored two goals in the All-Ireland Semi-Final win against Waterford, before playing a vital part in the All-Ireland Final against Tipperary as the Black and Amber regained The McCarthy Cup.
Richie set-up the first goal for Michael Fennelly, before applying the finishing touch for Kilkenny’s Second goal following a wonderful solo run by Eddie Brennan.
2011 was a special year for Richie as he also Captained Danesfort to their first Intermediate County title in 80 years since 1931 following victory against Rower-Inistioge in the decider, before finishing the year with his first All-Star.
Another All-Ireland followed in 2012, before Richie was at his peak during The 2014-2016 period as he was very central to further All-Ireland wins in 2014 and 2015. In 2014, he scored 0-6 from play and was named Man of The Match in that epic drawn All-Ireland Final against Tipperary, before Kilkenny won the replay. Richie picked up his 2nd Allstar before been named Hurler of The Year.
Another All-Ireland Medal followed in 2015, and for the second consecutive year he was nominated for Hurler of The Year that was won by his Kilkenny Teammate TJ Reid.
However, he picked up a third All-Star for a string of top class performances, and a 4th All-Star followed in 2016 as Kilkenny lost the All-Ireland Final against Tipperary.
From 2017 onwards, he was often plagued by injuries that restricted his appearances.
Following the disappointment of his sending-off in The 2019 All-Ireland Final against Tipperary, Richie bounced back in 2020 with a moment of brilliance to help Kilkenny to their first Leinster title since 2016.Having come off the bench as a substitute, Kilkenny were trailing Galway by five points as the match had entered the final quarter. However, Richie displayed magical skill with a sublime goal as he controlled the sliothar on his hurley, before doubling on it as he slammed the ball to the net. It was a magical moment and that was quickly followed by a another goal by TJ Reid. All of a sudden Kilkenny led by a solitary point, and those two quick fire goals inspired Kilkenny to victory.
He continued as part of The Kilkenny set-up, but saw limited game time over the past three years. In last years epic All-Ireland Final against Limerick, Richie came off the bench to score an important point that brought Kilkenny level with less than 10 minutes remaining, before The Shannonsiders went on to claim victory and record the three-in-a-row.
His final Inter-County Championship appearance was as a late sub in this years All-Ireland Final also against Limerick as they cruised towards a fourth All-Ireland title in succession.
He brought the curtain down on a very successful Inter-County career in late August in which he won 7 Senior All-Ireland Medals and scored 12-95(131) in 56 Championship appearances.
He was also a very established Handball player having won 15 All-Irelands and also winning a World Championship similar to his cousin DJ Carey.
He is continuing to play with his club Danesfort and last year he led the way as he scored 0-12 ( 0-6 from play ) to defeat Thomastown in an epic Intermediate County Final after extra-time. It was a particularly special victory as last year was the 100th anniversary of the founding of Danesfort(1922).
However, Danesfort now face a battle to hang on to their Senior status, and that will be the priority of Richie and his teammates as they play Erins Own of Castlecomer in tomorrow’s relegation final.