Fennelly hails 'outrageously skilful' Hogan
By John Harrington
Kilkenny captain, Colin Fennelly, has hailed the impact a fully fit Richie Hogan is having for the Cats this year.
Hogan has been hindered by a back injury in recent years but seems to be over that issue now.
He certainly looked as sharp as he’s ever done when he produced a match-winning cameo in Saturday’s Leinster SHC Final against Galway by coming off the bench and scoring 1-2 from play.
“Last year he was going from game to game and he was struggling with injuries,” says Fennelly.
“This year, I'm not sure if the break did him good, but he's in every session now and you can see that from the match the other day, any ball he got near his movement was excellent. And the goal he created was unbelievable.
“To have him there as an option to come off the bench is unbelievable and he changed the game on Saturday, everybody saw that. It's great to see that recognition because last year I thought he had a good year for Kilkenny and it was clouded by that Final.
“A lot of players might have hung up the boots at 32/33 after something like with all the injuries they had. It takes a lot of guts to come back and to be on the bench and come on and do what he does.”
Hogan’s pivotal goal against Galway was one of the most skilful ever scored in Croke Park as he created the opportunity and finished it with four incredibly deft touches
“He's outrageously skilful,” says Fennelly. “The things you see him doing in training, you'd wonder how he's not playing. But there's loads of lads in training and you're wondering how he's not playing and that's probably a good thing for Kilkenny that we have that at the moment, there's serious competition there for places.
“Brian Cody has that option where he has Richie to come off the bench to change the game. He's a completely different player to some of us and it's a huge turning point in a game.
“You could see when he came on against Dublin he was unfortunate with two scores. And if he was to get those two scores and normally he would, he would have changed that game as well.”
Fennelly admits that Saturday’s win over Galway feels like a huge deal for their panel because they had last won a Leinster title in 2016, which counts as a long wait in a county as accustomed to success as Kilkenny.
“It was massive because I think it's four years since we actually won a Leinster and All-Ireland.
“We had been so close over the last few years and as time goes on it keeps on going all of a shot and you could be another few years away from it. So if you let those chances slip by it could be another while before it happens.
“So it's very important from getting to the final last year and getting to the final this year to get a win this year was huge.
“I know we won the League last year which was huge, but to get a Leinster back in our pocket was a good achievement for us and a good step going forward to the All-Ireland.”
The Kilkenny players get to rest up this weekend whereas their All-Ireland semi-final opponents will have another hard match on Saturday. Fennelly believes that can count in Kilkenny’s favour.
“Yeah, I definitely find it's a huge advantage. I know with the club it was week after week and you'd really feel it. Whereas now with the county you have that two week break.
“We'll have Wednesday and Saturday of good hurling sessions in and for players like me who didn't have a good game at the weekend I can follow up with trying to get my form back in training.
“Whereas if we were playing this weekend again I wouldn't have that opportunity and it's the same for other players as well.
“And for those players who were in form at the weekend they want to brush on their skills too and it gives you that break for guys like Richie Hogan who need that time just to recover. It's a huge advantage as well.”