DEFEAT was a bitter pill to swallow, but Kilkenny centre-back Brian Hogan’s mind was already concentrating on the next challenge.
“We need to snap out of it now and get over this defeat very quickly,” said the O’Loughlin Gaels man after Saturday’s loss to Dublin. “We’ll lick our wounds but it won’t be long before we have to start thinking about next weekend.
“The key now is to get our recovery work done. There’s not much time to do too much ahead of the Tipp game.”
Having to turn things around for a second game in the space of seven days (and a third crunch championship decider in as many weeks) is never ideal, but Hogan preferred to pick out some positives ahead of facing Tipp this Saturday.
“Maybe that’s a good thing,” he offered, by way of consolation. “We’ve fallen off the bike, but can get straight back on to it. The six days between the games will be important, as our next match is do or die.”
Hogan didn’t pull any punches when asked about the last gasp draw against Dublin, and whether or not the relief at getting a second chance acted as a spur for the replay.
“We felt we didn’t do ourselves justice in the second half (of the drawn game),” he said.
“We didn’t hurl particularly well. We were hanging in there, but getting a draw gave us a chance to come back and up the performance levels. In fairness to Dublin they came back to Portlaoise with a game-plan.
“They were outstanding,” was Hogan’s gracious verdict. “We had no answer to it.
“You could see at the end what it meant to Dublin, but it was very disappointing from our point of view,” he added. “You hate losing any time, but it was one of those things.”
The Dubs brought that intense game that Kilkenny have been famous for.
“They were super,” he said. “For whatever reason we just couldn’t live with them. There was only one score in it, but it was disappointing - it’s hard to gather your thoughts so soon after the match, but we’ll have to sit down and think about this game.”
Dublin were few points ahead at half-time Kilkenny never let them get too far ahead. They were in the game right up to the end.
“It’s a credit to the lads that even though we went in four points down at the break we didn’t let them pull away,” said the Kilkenny centre-back. “We kept pegging them back and fighting on.
“The goal, ultimately, was the killer,” he added. “It proved to be the difference in the end, which was a pity, but these things happen. It’s a matter now of bouncing back from this defeat. We did it last year - it’s a bit earlier this time around - but we’ll have to refocus and hopefully do the same this time around.”
That was the positive Kilkenny could take from defeat - they were still in the championship.
“That’s what we’ll be looking at,” he said. “The opportunity for an All-Ireland is still there.
“The Leinster championship is gone, which is hugely disappointing as that’s happened two years in a row - that does matter to us, but we still have a chance in the All-Ireland.
“That’s what we’ll be concentrating on for the rest of the week, ultimately getting injuries and niggles fully recovered and the minds focused for next week.”
And that focus will see Tipp make the trip to Nowlan Park.
“It doesn’t come much bigger than that,” he said. “It’ll be a huge game, a derby match. There was such massive interest in the League final that I can only imagine what the championship game will be like.
Saturday’s game against Tipp will see Kilkenny involved in their third week of championship hurling in a row - but Hogan is relishing the challenge.
“That’s what you train for - to play matches,” he said. “You love them; you’d prefer if you were winning, but that’s the nature of the sport. We won’t be feeling sorry for ourselves.
“Regardless of who we were going to be playing it’s do or die now,” he added. “There is no second chance now. We have to win and that’s the way it is.”