'Richie Hogan going off: that's a huge boost for Waterford. I think things were done the wrong way around'

Shane Dowling believes Brian Cody and Kilkenny got a key selection decision wrong in their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to The Déise.

Richie Hogan is tackled by Tadhg de Burca.
Richie Hogan is tackled by Tadhg de Burca.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

AS A MAN who contributed so majorly to Limerick’s 2018 All-Ireland success off the bench, Shane Dowling probably fits the mold of ‘finisher’ — to borrow a piece of Eddie Jones’ rugby parlance — rather than the more conventional ‘sub’.

Nobody was ever glad to see Dowling enter the fray but many an opposition half-back was glad to see the back of him at the final whistle.

‘Finishers’ such as Dowling influence the psychology of a game upon their introduction, but so too does the early withdrawal of a similarly talismanic figure.

It was an area of discussion as Dowling and Kerry football legend Marc Ó Sé dissected Waterford’s All-Ireland hurling championship semi-final win over Kilkenny on our GAA Weekly podcast for The42 members, wherein Ó Sé posed the question to Dowling as to whether he felt Brian Cody’s decision to start Richie Hogan — whose impact off the bench in Kilkenny’s Leinster final victory over Galway was so profound — was the correct one.

“No,” answered Dowling, who acknowledged Ó Sé’s suggestion that “hindsight is 20:20″ but added: “Even if they (Kilkenny) did win the game, I would have said it was the wrong decision.

“Colin Fennelly has been incredible for Kilkenny and indeed for Ballyhale over the last couple of years. He had one disappointing game [v Galway], but do you not give a guy like that the benefit of the doubt? Walter Walsh is an absolute mountain of a man. And they’re not used to being subs.”

Ó Se interjected: “Sorry for cutting across you, now, but would you have started Richie Hogan on the subs again and just brought him on again?”

“One hundred per cent,” said Dowling. “Yeah. Obviously, I can speak from experience of having been in that situation, like.

By doing that to Richie (using him as an impact sub), you’re nearly filling him with confidence and saying, ‘Okay Richie, we hope that the game is in the melting pot here with 20 minutes to go, and it’s over to you then, kid, to go on and win the game.’ That’s how I would have seen it. And then for Colin Fennelly and Walter Walsh, they’re so physically strong — they’re such powerhouses of men… There are goals in them boys. There’s savage work in them boys. And to bring them on with whatever it was remaining (21 minutes and 31 minutes respectively), they couldn’t get into the game.

“And things didn’t fall for Richie, so even from the point of view of a psychological advantage for Waterford, to see Richie Hogan going off: that’s a huge boost for Waterford,” Dowling added.

“If you saw Colin Fennelly or Walter Walsh go off after 60 minutes, it wouldn’t be as much of a boost for Waterford.

I just think things were done the wrong way around. I think with Richie, it would have given the players a massive lift when he was coming on. It would have…I won’t say put the fear of God into Waterford, but they would have had to watch him very closely.

“And I know from Richie’s perspective, he obviously did very well when he came on the last day, he may have been going very well in training, but sometimes just keep a leash on a fella like that. Was it Michael Duignan or someone who said it during the week that now, teams aren’t even starting with their best teams. They’re actually starting with lads that would usually come on; they’re [starting them] in no doubt that they’ll still do the job, and then with 20 minutes to go, they’re finishing with their best teams.

And in fairness to Limerick, and I know we’ll come onto them in a while, Peter Casey — for me — starts every day of the week. I know he’s a club man, I know he’s one of my best friends, but he’s unbelievable. But for John Kiely, he’s probably thinking, ‘No, we’ll restrict Peter, now; we know he can do it coming in [as a sub]. And he came on [v Galway] and scored two points and made an unbelievable catch that set up a goal chance. So that justifies it.

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darragh-lyons-celebrates-after-the-game Waterford's Darragh Lyons celebrates after the game. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Dowling and Ó Sé did indeed get onto Limerick’s win over Galway, and also broke down how Waterford became the first ever Munster county to beat Cody’s Kikenny in an All-Ireland semi-final in expert detail.

Naturally, they also gazed towards the final, with Ó Sé asking Dowling how Waterford might prepare for the showpiece on 13 December having already performed so capably against the Treaty juggernaut in the Munster final only a fortnight ago.

“It’s ideal, really,” Dowling said. “It’s one thing if you’re beaten by 15 points and you’re miles off it.

I think from a Waterford perspective, if they didn’t [already] play Limerick this year, there’d be a sense of, ‘Jesus, are Limerick a different animal? Are we able to cope with that? Are we really there — can we do it?’

“But I think after playing them, getting so close, getting them down the home strait only for a big push by Limerick in the final quarter for them to win by four points, I think Waterford will have learned a huge amount. I think they’ll be delighted to have played them, to have experienced them; to see how they play, to see what they do.

“I’ve no doubt Liam Cahill and his management team will spend hours and hours over the next couple of weeks studying that [previous] game and the games over the weekend inside out. I think it’s going to be a massive advantage to Waterford having already played Limerick and seeing what they will bring.”

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