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Hogan's a hero again as Kilkenny march into the final

By Paul Keane

If Kilkenny hurling fans are beginning to take their hurling heroes for granted after securing a remarkable 14th All-Ireland final spot in the Brian Cody era, they should consider the remarkable deeds of Richie Hogan.

Last Friday, by the player's own admission he was unable to walk properly due to a prolapsed disc and severe joint damage suffered in training the previous weekend.

All week, he received cortisone injections, sometimes twice a day, and specialist physio though even a day out from the biggest game of the Cats' season it was unclear if he would definitely play.

Consider then that in the final 20 minutes as Waterford rallied, reducing their arrears to just three points and threatening to secure a first final place since 2008, it was hurler of the year Hogan who stood up to be counted with three terrific points to settle his team.

Then there was the case of Michael Fennelly who also has severe back trouble. After yesterday's game, manager Brian Cody admitted that the midfielder, who got through a tonne of good work to frustrate Waterford, hasn't actually trained in weeks.

Against that background of uncertainty, the All-Ireland holders' return to next month's final where they will play Galway or Tipperary is all the more impressive.

The game's decisive moment came in the 17th minute when TJ Reid evaded the attention of Barry Coughlan and Tadhg de Burca to blast the only goal. From there on, Kilkenny led and while they were never entirely comfortable, they rarely looked like being caught either.

Cody doesn't give out praise too easily though his decision to make just one change during the game reflected his satisfaction.

"I just felt we were doing very, very well throughout," said Cody. "I thought that everybody knew their role and what they had to do and everyone was doing it well."

KILKENNY: E Murphy; P Murphy, J Holden S Prendergast; P Walsh, K Joyce, C Buckley (0-1); M Fennelly (0-1), C Fogarty; W Walsh, R Hogan (0-5), C Fennelly; G Aylward (0-4), TJ Reid (1-9, 7f), E Larkin (0-1). Subs: J Power for W Walsh (67).

WATERFORD: S O'Keeffe; S Fives, B Coughlan, N Connors; D Fives, T de Burca, P Mahony; K Moran (0-1), J Barron; S Bennett (0-1), M Walsh, A Gleeson (0-3, 0-1 s/l); C Dunford (0-4), M Shanahan (0-9, 6f, 1 65), J Dillon. Subs: P Curran for Dillon (53), Stephen Bennett for Shane Bennett (57).

Referee: Brian Gavin (Offaly)

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