Ken Hogan - the man with the Midas touch
By John Harrington
Ken Hogan describes his love for hurling like a drug-addiction, and he certainly got a good fix yesterday by managing two teams to county titles in two different counties.
He first led his native Lorrha to the Tipperary Junior B Camogie Championship title in the morning, before heading across the border to Offaly where managed the St. Rynagh’s team that won their third consecutive Offaly SHC title in the afternoon.
“It was a huge thrill,” Hogan told GAA.ie. “It was just one of those very busy days. It started at 7.30am in the morning getting organised and getting lads going.
“The camogie, fair play to the county camogie board, the game was originally fixed for 11.30am and they brought it forward to 10.30am because there was no alternative date. Fair play to Moycarkey and the County Board for that.
“It was a great final, we were six points down at one stage, but the girls showed great resilience to come back. It was a huge boost for the club, a huge boost for Lorrha. It's seldom we win county finals so we really enjoyed it.
“I had planned to go with ten minutes left to play but I stayed to the bitter end because it was a one-point game right to the end.”
Lorrha’s victory was all the sweeter for both players and managment because this was their fourth year in a row to contest the County Final having lose the three previous ones.
“I met a couple of the girls a couple of years ago at mass and they said they had no-one over them, they were in desperate straits, so I just said I'd give them one night a week," says Hogan of how he first got involved with the team.
“Of course, one night became three, that's what happens in the GAA. Just thrilled now for the girls in Lorrha, just really thrilled for them, having lost the last three Fianls. They really dug it out, they dug deep.
“We have 19 players and they were absolutely top class, they gave it their all. At the end of the day it was just great to come out on top and tough luck on Moycarkey Borris, they'll come again.
“You always cherish the victory with your club. To win with your own club yesterday morning was something special. I'd cherish the victories with my own parish down through the years more than anything else, the same way anyone else would. As the saying goes, the savage loves his native shore.
“Look it, it's just a wonderful feeling. It's sport at the end of the day and there's a lot of things going on at the moment in the world with this bloody pandemic. So we're just thrilled to bring delight to the people in the parishes.
“I went from Tipperary back into Offaly yesterday and I suppose that's where I grew up and went to school in and my father refereed Offaly county finals, so there's huge connections on both sides.”
Hogan couldn’t revel in Lorrha’s celebrations for more than a couple of minutes before he had to make a dash for his car and point it in the direction of Tullamore for the Offaly SHC Final.
“My wife Joan was with me and we collected Andy Smyth, my strength and conditioning trainer in Birr, and I was obviously still on a high but I kept the car between the ditches.
“I was well brought down to earth, I can tell you, when we hit Tullamore and took on Coolderry because we were on the ropes for a lot of the time in that county final.
“We were three points down going into the last five minutes and we needed to keep our nerve. It was a very tough game, a very dogged game. Coolderry had beaten St. Rynangh's in coutny finals in '86, and 2015 and they are always so hard to beat in county finals.
“We emptied the subs bench during the match, we had to, and ultimately that paid dividends in the end because those guys who had been training the whole year came good, and it just shows you the importance of hanging in there.
“Some of those lads I'm sure were hugely disappointed they weren't getting game-time, but, by God, they got it yesterday.”
By now, Hogan has one of the most impressive CVs of any currently active hurling manager.
He led his native Tipperary to the All-Ireland U-21 2010, but it’s in Offaly where his Midas touch is most apparent.
When still an inter-county player himself with Tipperary, he led Birr to the 1991 Offaly SHC, their first in 20 years.
He won two Offaly senior hurling titles and a Leinster senior hurling title with Coolderry, and has now masterminded three in a row with St Rynagh’s.
Throw in Laois senior hurling title with Borris-Kilcotton, a Ryan Cup success with Maynooth University, a good number of underage titles with Lorrha, and his managerial record is something very special.
Hogan’s life has revolved around hurling and camogie for as long as he can remember, and he’s more than happy for it to continue to do so.
“It's a huge addiction, it's a drug,” he says. “Without a doubt it's an addiction. I absolutely love it. I don't play golf, only exhibition stuff, and I make an exhibition of myself when I do play! I don't go horse-racing.
“Joan, my wife, is dead sound. The one thing about it is that at least I'm close to home, Banagher is only 15 minutes away. So I go and do the training and come home and from that point of view she loves it.
“It's my drug and she knows that I get a great kick out of it. We enjoy it all together and my family are very supportive. The kids are absolutely great, they back me 100 per cent and we're a close-knit unit. We all support each other in whatever endeavours we do.
“We have heart-breaks and we have success and we have to take the rough with the smooth. That's what it's all about.”