The O'Loughlin Gaels captain tells Newstalk.com what his side learned from last year's defeat to Clara
All the talk surrounding Brian Hogan last year was the fact that he would be facing his brother Keith in the Kilkenny Senior Hurling Championship Final.
The subplot added to their drive for a first county title in five years, with sibling rivalry and club pride the backdrop to the game.
But for all the narratives and storylines embraced by publications around the country, none of it mattered when last year's finalists Clara ran out two-point winners.
The brothers were pictured hugging after the final whistle and, in Brian's case, the story came to an abrupt end.
"We felt last year that we had opportunities during the course of the match and we didn’t take them, whereas I think Clara did," he tells Newstalk.com. "They were probably that bit more mature in the way they handled the occasion. The age profile of their team and their experience, they just seemed to handle the pressure that little bit better.
"There was only two points in it, so there was probably a couple of mistakes that ultimately cost us."
Hogan will get another crack at county glory this Sunday and there will be no subplots distracting attention away from his aim. Finalists last year and in 2006, the club have not lifted the crown since 2010 when they were three-point winners over Carrickshock.
Brian and Keith Hogan (right) are pictured embracing after the final whistle during last year's final. Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
This year's final with hurling giants Ballyhale Shamrocks, he says, will be won and lost on what the team managed to learn last year.
"I think Ballyhale have been the standard bearers with regard to club hurling. The list of honours over the last ten years or so have been unparalleled. As for Clara, over the past four years they were probably the most consistent team. They came up from intermediate and were able to win the intermediate All-Ireland and two county titles.
"We’re never too far away on either side though. We would have beaten Ballyhale last year in the county semi-final and ultimately we came up short by two points in the final.
"Over the last few years there hasn’t been an awful lot in it between ourselves and the two others. They just probably had the edge on us.
"The old saying goes: You have to lose one to win one. I don’t necessarily believe in that but certainly I’m hoping last year will stand to us in terms of handling the occasion and everything that goes with it.
"The expectation among this group in O’Loughlin’s is very high. We want to be competing and we want to be winning county titles. That’s where our aspirations lie and I don’t think the lads will be satisfied with just getting to another county final.
"We’re aiming to come up and go one step further than last year. I don’t think the fact that Ballyhale won recently and we haven’t won in six years is going to make any difference. It won’t play any role in lessening the pressure."
Hogan pointed to the emergence of young talent such as Paddy Deegan and Huw Lalor, who have represented Kilkenny at U21 level, in helping to renew their push for the title.
"When you have some young blood coming in it pushes on the older guys. There’s a new freshness to everything. The younger guys would have only encountered a county final for the first time last year. That’s a big step up and a big learning curve.
"There’s enough of us there to test us and then those who have won county finals over the years, so there’s a nice blend and balance. There’s a good balance to us at the moment so I’m hoping that will stand to us in good stead."
Experience will be crucial this weekend, none more so than their ability to continue to put scores on the board even when Ballyhale get on top.
"I think the teams that tended to win out, the likes of the Ballyhales and the Claras, have been able to keep the scoreboard ticking over even when they have been under a bit of pressure.
"That’s something we need to be conscious of and invariably when you play against a team like Ballyhale, they’re going to have a period of dominance.
"During this phase it’s crucial to keep the scoreboard ticking over. Part of that comes down to experience and doing the right thing at the right time with a ball. Hopefully that’s the case on Sunday for us."
The pair meet at this Sunday in Nowlan Park (3pm).