It was a hectic 10 year journey that was strewn liberally with silverware. Yet, the very best moments could be measured in seconds.
Retired hurling defender, Brian Hogan, looked back and felt it was all beyond the realm of a dream that “Kilkenny won so much”, but as his half-back colleague for so long, Tommy Walsh said when he finished up two weeks ago:”They had the time of their lives”.
The 6’ 4” O’Loughlin Gaels giant joined the senior panel in 2004. He retired with a stash of 39 major medals, including seven senior All-Irelands; eight Leinster championships; six NHL; four Walsh Cup and two All-Stars.
And who knows, he might yet add to his three senior county championships with O’Loughlin’s.
Hogan, who celebrated his 33rd birthday in August, saw League and championship action during the season, but he felt his time had come.
Let him tell the story in his own words: “It was not an easy decision to make. It has been 10 years of my life. It has been brilliant, fantastic. As Brian Cody often says, it was not a sacrifice because we love it so much and because we have enjoyed so much success.
“With the lads it is like a band of brothers. It is part of your life. I probably spent more time with the lads than I did with my family.
“At the height of the season we had collective sessions four days a week for three hours. The other days you are in the gym. You are in communication most days, texting, chatting, whatever.
“The social life is practically nonexistent. The boys are the social life. The craic together is great. There is nothing like sharing hardship and seeing it rewarded with victory.”
And then he hits the spot: “There is nothing like the moments after the final whistle sounds in an All-Ireland and your team has won. You can’t describe it. The reason you go through the hardship and sacrifices is for those couple of moments; the feeling.
“Those couple of seconds you share with the players on the Croke Park pitch, before the presentation, before anyone else gets there. The feeling is unbelievable. You know you have achieved what you wanted. The satisfaction.
“Then it is extended in the dressing-room when the players gather together in the warm up room after the emotion of the presentation and everything else and have a short sing-song. Those couple of minutes together define the involvement.
“It is not the formal stuff. That is great. But it is the minutes we are on our own. Those are the priceless moments when you get the real satisfaction, the real appreciation. It is a sort of, yes we have achieved what we set out to achieve. All those hard work has been worth it.
“There is a glow for the rest of the year, but those moments are it. They are best moments of all. They are the drug that keep you going. They drag you back.
“We have been fortunate to win more than we lost. The Winters when we weren’t successful were a bit of a weight on you. The Winters seemed longer. When you win, the Winter flies. You are back training before you know it. I think the entire county feels that a bit.”
Brian Hogan was a product of the St Kieran’s College hurling academy. They won an All-Ireland in 2000, beating St Flannan’s. Two injuries during the season killed his chances of making the county minor team.
He got to wear the black and amber at under-21 level when then manager, Richie Power invited him aboard after O’Loughlin’s won the championship. He was centre-back for two years, but they didn’t scale the heights.
Eventually, in 2004 Brian Cody came a calling with an invitation to join the senior squad. Hogan jumped at the chance. Two years later he was a senior All-Ireland medal winner, on the way to a never before - for Kilkenny - achieved four in-a-row.
“That was it,” he gushed. “Each season you go in you hope to survive that season. But once you got the taste of success you wanted more. You get greedy.”
He admitted he was a fiercely driven competitor, always. He never liked to see talent wasted.
“Thankfully people saw potential in me; people in St Kieran’s college, in the club, Richie Power, Brian. I never minded the hard work. I find you get a certain confidence and belief when you know you have put in the work.
“I would like to think I got the best out of myself. I would hate to think I had left something behind. What I and the group achieved was mad, I suppose. “
Brian lifted the MacCarthy Cup as captain in 2011 in the final against Tipperary.
“You talk about the high and lows in sport,” he said when he filled in the pieces. “I went from missing an All-Ireland because of injury to walking up the steps of the Hogan Stand and collecting the cup. It’s hard to imagine a bigger difference in emotions. For the family, my club and myself that was massive.
“I remember my father saying a few weeks after winning in 2009 and doing the four in-a-row by beating Tipp that things couldn’t be better. The uncle said ‘he could captain Kilkenny to win an All-Ireland’. I thought that was crazy. Two years later it happened.
“Dreams are not made of stuff like that. As a young lad you think about getting the call and wearing the jersey. Then you want to win an All-Ireland. To go on and win what we did was fantastic, crazy even.
“Some day we will get to appreciate it all. For now, life goes on. When you are in the middle of it all you focus on the next one, the next one. Some of us can take a step back now and look at it all.
“The new players are ready to drive on, and Kilkenny will be contenders again next year.”