30 Nov 2021

Hogan plays heroic role as Tullamore return to the summit

“I am powerless inside unless there is fantastic pressure put on the ball outside”

Hogan plays heroic role as Tullamore return to the summit

Declan Hogan, left, celebrating Tullamore's big win

DECLAN Hogan has been an absolute revelation for Tullamore this season and he conjured up another tale to tell his grandchildren about in future years when he had the very rare distinction of holding Niall McNamee scoreless in Sunday's Senior Football Championship final replay.

Hogan was brilliant for Tullamore in the two finals. Tasked by manager Niall Stack with marking Niall McNamee on both days, he rose in style to a challenge that has daunted and ultimately broken most defenders in Offaly down the years.

McNamee may be in the veteran stages of his career but has still destroyed teams and defenders this year and the job Hogan did on him over the two days greatly enhanced Tullamore's victory prospects. Hogan was man of the match the first day, even though it was McNamee who rescued Rhode with a sensational second half point and brilliant last gasp equalising goal.

On Sunday, Hogan trumped that performance, making some inspirational blocks and interceptions and only the all consuming brilliance of John Furlong denied him the man of the match award. The displays of the long serving Tullamore and Offaly defender commanded attention and the utmost admiration as he has not always based his reputation on his man marking ability. Instead, Hogan has been somewhat a free spirit at corner back, relishing attacking the ball, being on the ball and moving up field when he could.

It was likely to have been part of the reason that Tullamore played him on the half back line last year but this year he was given the full back role from the start and he showed how effective he can be as a man marker – McNamee did miss a free and mark last Sunday but Hogan stuck to him like glue, never letting him out of his sight or get away from him when the ace Rhode forward did get the ball.

It was a supreme marking job and speaking after the final whistle, Hogan said: “It was a very tough battle. Rhode played to the very last minute the last day and it just goes to show, you have to be on your game until the final whistle goes. I am just delighted we got over the line today. Unbelievable hard work has gone in.”

It was suggested that Tullamore were clearly the better team over the two days. “I suppose in games like this, it is often like a chess match. You really do have to take your scores. We had chances in the first half and probably weren't clinical enough but lucky enough in the second half, it opened up a bit and we took our chances. We had a few more chances we would have liked to have taken and you are thinking of the previous game, you want to see it out to the very end. Credit to Rhode, they came and they came and they came. They got a penalty in the last minute due to the pressure they were putting on. We were delighted with the final whistle.”

Hogan didn't see the foul for the penalty even though he was only feet away. “I honestly didn't se it. The ball went in and I had my eyes on someone else. The referee blew the whistle and I wasn't sure, I just switched onto the next moment in case there was a rebound.”

He didn't find it too hard to pick himself up after the drawn game. “It felt like a blow at the time but as the days went on, we told ourselves it is only half time, there is another match to play. I was chatting guys during the week and they said they would give anything to play in another county final. We are the lucky ones. We got to play in two county finals in two weeks and to represent this group of players and all the people who came today, we are just delighted to win. People have been through the wringer for the last two years, everyone has and it is great to put a smile on people's faces.”

Hogan was quick to pay tribute to his team mates for Niall McNamee ending up scoreless. “Look Niall McNamee has been an absolutely fabulous footballer and still is. He has been by far and away the best footballer in Offaly for the past few years but what I will say is we attack as a team and we defend as a team. I am powerless inside unless there is fantastic pressure put on the ball outside. That is one thing we have been practicing the whole year, to put pressure on the ball outside and you saw it there today with the work that went on. It was unbelievable and if we don't have that pressure out the pitch, we will be in trouble in the full back line so credit to the boys out the pitch. This is a one to thirty five effort. The junior team were fantastic as well and the U-20 team have been brilliant. It is not a 1 to 30 job, it is 1 to 60, everyone who is training with Tullamore played a part. The women have had a fantastic year as well, the camogie and ladies teams won as well. It really has been a team effort this year and I am just delighted to be wearing a Tullamore jersey this year. We are the lucky ones.”

What do you say to the people suggesting that Tullamore could be about to dominate and the win represents the changing of the guard in Offaly football?

“What I say to that is I was lucky enough to be involved in 2013 and it is unbelievably difficult to win a county championship. We are lucky that we have a few good players coming through but that doesn't always transfer into senior success. We really have to mind these lads, make sure they stay playing. As you see with the Rhode team there, they have had the same core of lads who have been absolutely brilliant for them over the last number of years and they always had one or two coming on as well. That is the benchmark. You have to keep lads playing football and hopefully if we can do that, there will be more. As I said it doesn't guarantee success but you will always give yourself a good chance if you have those lads playing football year in, year out.”

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