Richie Hogan’s new midfield role is as much a triumph for Brian Cody as the player himself
He was always seen as an inside forward but now Hogan leads the betting for Hurler of the Year
Despite normally playing as a forward, Kilkenny’s Richie Hogan has excelled at midfield this summer. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho.
Brian Cody gave up the thinnest of smiles. Stood outside the Kilkenny dressing room at Nowlan Park after watching his side’s unfussy deconstruction of Offaly, he was being asked about Tommy Walsh who had come on in the second half at wing-forward.
As far as anyone could work out, it was Walsh’s first time playing in advance of midfield since the 2005 championship and we wanted to know if this was for life, not just for the relative Christmas offered up by a hapless Offaly side. Did this mean that Tommy will be a forward from here on out? Cody had his swerve at the ready.
“Tommy is . . . (pause, beat, that thin smile) . . . a hurler.”
Limited useThough he meant nothing more by it than a firm none-of-your-business, it barely needs saying that it was an answer rooted in how he sees the game. Players who can do just one thing would want to do it extremely well if that’s all they’re going to do for him. Otherwise they’re of limited use to a manager who doesn’t like limits. Cody’s chessboard is one where pawns generally need to get themselves queened.
In this context, Richie Hogan’s reinvention as a midfielder this summer is probably not the greatest surprise. In 22 championship games for Kilkenny before that self-same encounter with Offaly, Hogan had only ever lined out at centrefield once – the drawn All Ireland final against Galway in 2012. It wasn’t a success (Iarla Tannian zipped up the escalator towards an All Star that afternoon) and Hogan went back in front of goal for the replay.
Brilliant midfieldersYet as the 2014 season begins its final distillation, a summer decorated by brilliant midfielders has Hogan at the head of the betting for Hurler of the Year. Three games to go and already it looks probable that four or five players will be in the running for one midfield spot when it comes time to pick the All Stars.
James Ryan and Paul Browne have driven the Limerick effort. Daniel Kearney has been immaculate for Cork, Aidan Walsh was immense in the Munster final, James Woodlock’s relentless rejuvenation is one of the stories of Tipp’s year. At this rate, Lee Chin might struggle for a nomination.
But Hogan is king of the hill, top of the heap. His relocation has been an innovation born of necessity. Had both or possibly either Michael Rice or Mick Fennelly been blessed with a season uninterrupted by injury, all known likelihood points to Hogan carrying on as an inside forward. That was certainly Henry Shefflin’s instinct.