The national hurling league final was full of twists and turns, but it wasn’t just the fans who were thrilled with the outcome.
“That was a brilliant way to win the game,” said a beaming Richie Hogan as he soaked up the atmosphere amid a sea of well-wishers and autograph hunters on the Semple Stadium pitch.
“Extra-time after a last second point in injury-time - what a game,” the Man of the Match added. “I don’t know how T.J. (Reid) steered the last one over, but thank God he did.”
Hogan played his part in the score, teaming up with Reid in the build-up to the game’s winning point, but what went through his mind as his team-mate shaped to take the line ball?
“I think lads were shouting for him to take a shot, but I said I’d back off before making a burst at him,” said Hogan. “T.J. put the sliotar straight into my hand - I went to turn one way, then saw him making the run so I thought I’d just give him the ball as he usually doesn’t miss.”
Reid’s accuracy was a vital component to Kilkenny’s game on Sunday, something Hogan was quick to stress. “He’s a great free-taker and a great lad to take a score on the run too,” he said of his attacking colleague.
“T.J. is a great asset to have in the team. You wouldn’t want to have anyone else in that position for the last minute.”
Winning a game by just one point continued the game’s tight margins, but the Danesfort man felt that time got the better of Tipp.
Came out on top
“If the game had gone on for another five minutes Tipp could easily have been two or three points ahead,” he said of the opposition. “Everything depended on how long the game was. We just came out on top at the very end, which was brilliant.”
It was a game which bubbled along throughout the 90 minutes. There were stages where both teams tried to gallop clear, only to be hauled back by their rivals.
“We got off to a good start, but after finding ourselves a few points down at half-time we came back out and were flying again in the second half,” said Hogan.
“We probably should have been further ahead,” he reviewed. “We missed a few chances - I missed a few chances - some easy scores which could have put a bit of daylight between the teams. Missing those kept Tipp hanging in before they came back strongly at the end.”
A big feature of the game was the condition of both teams, who never took their foot off the gas throughout a full-tilt afternoon.
“The fitness of the teams was something else,” said Hogan. “I felt I could have played for another 20 minutes there after extra-time.
“I was looking at (Tipp corner-back) Michael Cahill at one stage and he was flying it beside me. It was a great game, but if it had gone on for another five minutes we mightn’t be standing here with the trophy.”
It was a game which was played at championship pace, but Hogan wasn’t surprised.
“You can’t go out on to a hurling field and say you’re going to play at league pace because you’ll be taken off after 10 minutes,” he said.
“Maybe we’re not as fit now as we are at the height of the Summer, we’re not as sharp as at the season’s peak and the weather might be a bit heavier.
“Those are things that can drop the pace, but the effort is always the same. That’s why you see lads going off after 50 minutes - they’ve really tried and they can’t go any more.
“How could you come down to Tipperary and play a league final and not have it at championship pace?” he asked aloud. “It was the same last year in Nowlan Park and again in 2009 when we played here and the game went to extra-time.”
That 2009 final ended with a win for Kilkenny - and another Man of the Match award for Hogan.
“It’s a nice fixture for me,” he smiled. “It was great to win it again, but whatever about the trophies and the medals the day was more about the occasion. It’s about the two and a half hours of the game and the 20 minutes afterwards - that’s what you play hurling for.”