DESCRIBED as one of the quiet men of the Kilkenny team, Aidan ‘Taggy’ Fogarty actually has a lot to say.
The Emeralds (Urlingford) forward has been flying of late, but admitted that he and his colleagues needed to up their game after being brought down to earth with a bump by Galway in the Leinster final. “As a Kilkenny forward you want the ball - you want to score,” he said. “There were no qualms about the game. Galway blew us out of the water; we were totally off our guard. That’s what happens in big games. It can be very hard to turn that around.”
Kilkenny came back strongly in second half. It was a quiet dressing-room at half-time, but Fogarty admitted that the players knew they had to make amends.
“It was quiet in there, but given the calibre of players in dressing-room it was never going to be a case of us just lying down to take a beating in the second half,” he said. “We upped our game. Individuals took it upon themselves to raise their own standards which we needed to do, but it wasn’t enough on the day.”
It was in that sense that the quickness of the Limerick game was a blessing for the Cats.
“I think most people were expecting a real backlash from us in that game, but realistically in sport that doesn’t happen,” he said. “You want to win the game, but you can’t just turn form around like that in three weeks.”
A lot of that anticipated ‘cricket score’ hung on the fact that, once more, Kilkenny started their campaign as red-hot title favourites.
Gunning for you
“That’s sport,” he said. “Look at the likes of Manchester United, who have been expected to win everything over the last number of years. It doesn’t happen like that - if other teams were winning the All-Ireland championship we’d be gunning to bring them down. When you’re at the top everyone else wants to be the team that makes you fall.”
Back in the final, it’s clear that Kilkenny are at the top. So too Fogarty, who has struck a rich vein of scoring form, rattling off lightning-fast goals in the last two games.
“Everything has clicked into place this year, but you get runs like that in games,” he said, shrugging off the praise. “The ball could fall to your left and you’ll miss it or it’ll fall in front of you and you’ll get it. I’m going well at the minute - hopefully I’ll be able to bring that form on again for the All-Ireland final.”
To say it’s just luck would be an insult. Fogarty has worked hard to regain fitness and form after suffering an ankle injury that wrecked his 2011 campaign.
“I have done a lot of hard work, even when I was injured last year,” he reflected. “I worked away behind the scenes last year which I think is paying off now. I won’t take anything for granted though, but staying injury-free means a lot as I’ve been able to keep up my fitness.”
A lot of the rehabilitation work was done at the new gym built for the players in the new stand in Nowlan Park. It was a tough place to go, but Fogarty did it with a long-term goal in mind.
“It can be a lonely place when you’re going in to do your work and all the lads are heading to the field for training, but I enjoyed my time there,” he revealed. “I was still able to meet up with them afterwards and have the craic so it never felt like I was apart from the team; you still keep up that link of being involved.”
That feeling of belonging on the team drove Fogarty on in his recovery.
“Looking on from the stands makes you hungrier and determined to get back to full fitness,” he said. “You want to get back hurling and hurling well. Do that and perform in training and there’s a good chance you’ll be picked. I’m delighted I got picked again.”
Now, he is reaping the benefits, enjoying his time back in the fold.
“I’m delighted to get back onto the team,” he said. “My approach has been to take each game as it comes and not to take anything for granted. You never know, it could be taken away from you in a minute. I’m really going to enjoy this final.”
It goes without saying that no player on the panel needs to be psyched up for the game.
“Our motivation is to win as much as we can while we’re there,” said the six-time All-Ireland champion. “I know that’s my motivation. All-Irelands are there to be won and we want to win them. It doesn’t always work out, but we have a good panel of players - we’re delighted to be chasing All-Irelands. To be winning them is a bonus.”
The Cats have the chance to win another on Sunday, but although it’s a meeting with Galway Fogarty doesn’t buy into this being a revenge match.
“Galway absolutely destroyed us in the Leinster final,” he said. “When a team does that to you you’re always itching to get another crack at them but this is an All-Ireland. No matter who you face you want to win it.
“I think we’ll treat it like any other match,” he said. “All this talk of revenge is irrelevant; as I said All-Irelands are there for winning.”
The forward had strong praise for Galway and their manager, whom he reckoned had the team firing on all cylinders.
“I haven’t been surprised by Galway’s form - not at all,” he said. “Galway are capable of this form every year - it’s just to get it out of them. The fact that they brought in so many young players shows there is a new spirit there in the camp. Anthony Cunningham is a good man, a shrewd manager, and I think he has brought a good spirit into Galway. It will be a massive battle.”