KEN Hogan knows the sinking feeling of losing an AIB All-Ireland Club SHC Final. He experienced it in 1992 when his Birr charges succumbed to Kiltormer in Semple Stadium and two decades on he was aiming to turn the tables with Coolderry. However, his ambition came unstuck as Loughgiel Shamrocks were the masters of all they surveyed at GAA headquarters on St Patrick’s Day.
“We’ve no complaints,” outlined the Tipperary All-Ireland SHC medal winner. He told the assembled media, “You prepare for winning, you prepare to lose and as manager of the team we have had a great adventure in Coolderry, to win county titles back-to-back and then to win a Leinster club championship for the first time, it was tremendous.
“And obviously to get to an All-Ireland club final was a huge dream come through. But again sport can be cruel and it came unstuck today. I cannot fault the lads, they gave it absolutely everything. A break of ball here, a break of a ball there. When you have clinical finishers like (Liam) Watson upfront it makes a huge difference and he produced the goods and you have to take your hats off to Loughgiel, they are deserving All-Ireland champions.”
Ken rued the concession of four goals. “Coolderry is a humble community, humble guys. They have been through the whole situation of losing county semi-finals and finals and we took our hats off and spoke to Loughgiel lads (after the presentation). They are very similar, humble people trying to do their best in a small community and we both worked very hard to get here and in fairness to Loughgiel they finished us with the goals. I suppose it was hard to pull it back at that stage and we were just chasing the game.”
Coolderry’s ‘mean’ defence that gave away just six goals in eleven previous outings was hit for four in the first half and asked about this, Ken was philosophical on the matter.
“Well sometimes it happens like that. We conceded two goals against Seir Kieran in the first quarter of an hour of the county quarter-final and we were sort of us put back on our heels and we had to come back and we strove to come back. Hurling is strange like that.
“In the second half Loughgiel never looked like getting a goal and obviously we’d to make a few switches and in fairness that’s what games are all about. Eddie McCloskey went for a point and Liam pulled it down and flicked it into the net. That’s the way the game goes.”
Trailing 4-6 to 0-9 at the break what was the mood like at half time. “We said ‘this is it lads. We’re not going to just stand around and feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve got to go out for the second half and throw everything at it’. And I think we did that. But if you get the goal chances you must take them. We didn’t take ours. Loughgiel took their’s with aplomb and you talk about spectacular goals, every goal is spectacular because they just flicked them in and there are just as important as the ones you score from 25 yards into the top corner of the net.”
Ken concurred that Coolderry needed to have pilfered more scores, and preferably a goal, during their five minutes of ascendacy at the beginning of the second half.
“We’d one or two chances for points aand we got it back to five points. You were hoping for goals but having said that we got a few chances. Even with about ten minutes to go we got a chance to bring it back to five again. We sort of tried to manufacture a goal and a point at that stage would have kept the momentum going. And in those situations as you well see, Coolderry needed a goal, but you see that four goal tally up there (on the scoreboard) against you and I suppose when you concede four goals in the first half its really a chasm.
“We’d one or two chances ourselves in the first half and we just didn’t finish them. Then Kevin’s (Connolly) chance after half time when he was put through, that was a great opportunity as well. That’s all down to experience as well. Kevin is just twenty years of age and he played great when he came in and he tried his best to wrestle it through.
“Having said that it didn’t work out. Loughgiel had a clean sheet and I suppose when you concede four at one side and they had a clean sheet, that’s where it adds up. Hats off to Loughgiel. They were outstanding. They showed the type of metal that has got them here and it is their second All-Ireland club championship, some achievement for a club like them.”
Ken said he was proud of his players. “We’ve absolutely no excuses. I’m so proud of our lads. There the same as if we had come in and won the game. They’re the very same bunch of fella’s. Brendan O’Meara, our captain, postponed his wedding yesterday (March 16), obviously prior to the Gort game. He is getting married on April 13 and these guys have made huge sacrifices to be here.
“Guys with qualifications not getting work and hanging around just for the sake of the club and the love of hurling and these guys will be back again. They love their hurling. They can walk out of Croke Park with their heads held proud. They won the Leinster club championship, played in an All-Ireland club final. It wasn’t their day. And as we know in sport, that’s the way the cruel turns and twists can happen.”
Coolderry will be attempting to win the Sean Robbins Cup for a third time in succession later this year but that was far from Ken’s mind.
“We’re thirteen months on the road now since last February 2011 so we obviously need a break for a month or so to recharge the batteries, freshen up and go again. These guys have put everything into this no more than Loughgiel have.
“I think the beauty of the club championship is what happened today. Coolderry, a small club in Offaly and Loughgiel, from North Antrim, coming down and really contesting a great club final. At the end of the day the spoils went to Loughgiel but I’ve to take my hat off to my lads because if we had never won anything, I would say they are great bunch of fella’s and every club in Ireland , is striving to where we got.”
Disappointed Ken concluded, “We can say without any shadow of a doubt, there are no regrets, we gave it our best. We’ve just got to recover from that, take it on the chin, not feel sorry for ourselves and look back on the positives of the year. To play at this level was great and now that we’ve got the scent of it you’ve got to try and bounce back and keep going.”