In the latest of our 'My Club and I' series on GAA.ie, we speak to Kilkenny hurler Richie Hogan about his club Danesfort.
Danesfort GAA is a small club about five miles south of Kilkenny city, located close to the M9 motorway from Dublin to Waterford. Danesfort GAA encompasses the areas of Burnchurch, Cuffesgrange and Danesfort itself.
Like the Kilkenny county team, Danesfort play in Black and Amber stripes.
Richie Hogan, who won an All Star with Kilkenny in 2011, is one of three Kilkenny senior players who play with Danesfort. The other two are his brother Paddy, and Paul Murphy, who won All Stars for the Cats in 2011 and 2012.
The last few years have been among the finest in the history of Danesfort. Aided by the presence of three Kilkenny seniors in their ranks, they have climbed from junior to senior status in the highly competitive environment of Kilkenny club hurling in the space of five years.
Where is the area that encompasses the club of Danesfort?
Danesfort is just outside Kilkenny city, about three or four miles. It's a small, rural area. A small club of just about 200 members.
The last few years have been momentous for the club. Give us an outline of what you have recently achieved.
We were a junior club for about 75 years and a couple of years ago in 2006, we won our first Junior title for 75 years and then went on the following March to Croke Park and were in an All-Ireland Junior Club final, which we won. That was probably the biggest day in the club's history.
In 2008, we reached the Kilkenny Intermediate Final where we were beaten. But we won the Intermediate in 2011 and we've been senior for the last two years.
Kilkenny Junior Champions: 2006
Leinster Junior Champions: 2006
All-Ireland Junior Champions: 2007
Kilkenny Intermediate Champions: 2011
There's county players like myself, my brother Paddy and Paul Murphy. We have also had a couple of U21 county players, Robbie Walsh and we have a fella at the moment, Darragh Sheehan, who is representing us at U21 level. Overall, we have a good history and it's a really tight-knit club.
How have you found the step up to senior Kilkenny Club Championship hurling?
It was massive for the club. The first game that we played was against Ballyhale Shamrocks who were All-Ireland champions at the time. That was fantastic for us. There was a great buzz around the place. But we found it very tough last year. We were in the relegation final, which we won by a point, which was probably bigger than winning a county final, because we were able to keep our senior status.
This year we have got off to a good start, and I think we've avoided relegation already which is great. We're kind of a very young team. And we're not a very big team in that we can't afford to lose players. We have just a small pick. But we're getting that bit better, we've been winning games, and we're delighted with that.
The 2007 All-Ireland Junior Club Hurling Final must have been an amazing experience for you and everyone in the club?
That was an amazing day. It was against Clooney Gaels, a club from Antrim. The whole year that year was fantastic. There were two or three buses from the area going to every game. We were up in Louth, playing against Knockbridge in a Leinster final.
Then we played a team from Cork called Kilworth in the semi-final down in Dungarvan, a kind of an epic battle down there. We came through that by a point. And then we played in Croke Park which was amazing. I had played there previously, and a few other lads had too, but it was just a fantastic day. We had lads there who were 39, 40 years of age, they had played junior all their lives and now they were here in Croke Park in front of a nice crowd. So it was a great day.
Do you have a strong family history with Danesfort?
Not really. My father is treasurer and he was trainer of a different club called John Locke's, a neighbouring parish which would be his home club. My mother is from a club next door as well, Bennettsbridge. Bennettsbridge would have been one of the most famous clubs in Kilkenny in the 1960s and 1970s. Back then they were the kingpins. They won 11 county titles in 19 years and my grandfather played with them. He won six county titles with Bennettsbridge, so we're all steeped in a bit of history down there.
Your brother Paddy, also a Kilkenny senior player, plays with you in Danesfort. Are there any other of your siblings involved with the club?
Yeah, my younger sister Rachel has been on the Kilkenny minor camogie team over the last few years and she plays with Danesfort as well. I have another younger sister who is only 10. She's starting to play, but she is playing with John Locke's because we've moved house since and that's where she goes to school. It's a closer one for her.
Tell us about your club grounds.
It's just called Danesfort GAA Club. We're starting a new development at the minute. We've built a new pitch and we're looking to build a kind of a hurling wall and a bit of an astro and a clubhouse. The local pub closed down recently in the parish, and although I know a pub shouldn't be the centre of the community, now that it's gone, the GAA club is now the centre, beside the school and the church, and I suppose they are looking for a proper centre for the community.
Can you remember your first ever involvement with Danesfort GAA?
I can. I actually started off playing in Bennettsbridge because my mother was from there. So I went to school there, and I started my hurling with them, myself and my brother. There's parish rule of course, in Kilkenny, so it meant that once I left primary school, I couldn't play with them any longer.
So I was nearly 13 when I played my first game for Danesfort. I played a bit of u14 even with Bennettsbridge but once I was in St. Kieran's College, I had to play with Danesfort which was tough at the time. But a lot of the lads who I would have been hurling with in Danesfort were in Kieran's College with me and a few would have been in Bennettsbridge, so it wasn't that tough in the end.
And your first adult game?
I was part of the Kilkenny minor team in 2004 and I was about 15 at the time. I wasn't playing adult hurling at all. But because I was probably a good minor they threw me on as a sub one day in the championship. We played Conahy Shamrocks in a Junior semi-final. I came on for the second half and I got a couple of points. But I found it very tough. I was only 15, in my last year U16, so probably a bit too young to be playing.
But that was my first game. It was in championship and I didn't play another game for a year after that because we were knocked out, we were beaten in that game.