Fogarty: 'We have come a long way'
By Cian O'Connell
After all the toil, tears were shed by O’Loughlin Gaels because returning to the top of the pile in Kilkenny was the mission they desperately wanted to accomplish.
For much of the past couple of decades Aidan Fogarty has occupied an influential role in the O’Loughlin Gaels tale.
Only founded in 1969 O’Loughlin Gaels are now widely respected among the elite of Kilkenny hurling so last month’s fourth County title was a particularly sweet win.
Beaten in the 2015 decider by Clara, O’Loughlin Gaels were primed and focused throughout a demanding campaign. “There would be great pride about the achievements of the club since the early 2000s and even before that,” Fogarty, who won eight Offaly SHC medals with St Rynagh’s, admits.
“O'Loughlin's would be a relatively young club, an awful lot of work was put in by a lot of people over the years getting the club established, building the groundwork and getting the facilities that we have in place over the years.
“There has to be huge pride for the people that were there from day one working hard, probably without too much support from people who thought it might be a long, slow journey to bring the club to where it is today. We would be delighted that the club has progressed and it is thanks to those people who have been involved from day one and in the intervening years.
“All of the players, mentors, and officials who soldiered in the not so good times, it is because of them that the club is where it has been over the last 20 odd years or thereabouts. Yes we have come a long way, but there is room to go further as well.”
That is why so much intrigue surrounds Sunday’s Innovate Wexford Park Leinster Semi-Final against holders Oulart-The Ballagh. “It will be an interesting game, anytime you win a County Championship you always look forward to the next stage and that is the Leinster Championship,” Fogarty says.
“Playing Oulart it will be an interesting game, they are Leinster Champions and are a very experienced Club Championship team so it is going to be a very big challenge.
“We have a nice blend of old and young with a good core of lads in between as well. Obviously after losing last year's County Final it was very disappointing just losing by a couple of points against Clara.
“The aim from the start of February was to get back into a County Final. To get to a County Final in Kilkenny there are a lot of hard steps on the road, but we negotiated those steps to get through to the Final.
“We had a good win over (Ballyhale) Shamrocks so we were just delighted to be able to come back immediately after last year's defeat to win a County Final. We are happy with how the year has gone so far and hopefully we can add to that at the weekend.”
Oulart outfoxed an understrength Rynagh’s outfit at the Quarter-Final stage which means Fogarty doesn’t have to face his native club. “Rynagh's are my home club and home is always home,” Fogarty remarks. “Just on the day Oulart were the better team, Rynagh's didn't perform or do themselves justice on the day. In saying that Oulart played well and they were deserving of their win.”
Former Kilkenny stars Brian Hogan and Martin Comerford were central figures in O’Loughlin’s latest Kilkenny triumph with Fogarty acknowledging the vital impact of the experienced players. “Yes indeed, one thing about any Kilkenny hurler who plays on the senior panel, they take great pride in their club as well,” is Fogarty’s assessment.
“They give 100% for the county, but when they come back to the club that is their focus, to give it everything. We have been very lucky to have the likes of Martin Comerford and Brian Hogan that have been there over the years and in recent times Mark Kelly and Mark Bergin, they come back to the club and they want to do well with the club.
“We are very happy with the contribution that they make to the club when they come back on the field and their influence off the field too.
“It is a great help for the younger lads that are looking at these lads looking at their attitude, preparation and how they conduct themselves. Young lads feed off that and they learn from that, the aim then is that the next generation will become hurlers like that.”