Billy Hogan was 88 years old last February and as he sits in his kitchen in Derry, Rathcabbin he can look back at a life in which hurling played a major part. He isn't fit for any hurling now but he likes to recall the days he played for Lorrha and Tipperary.
He was born at Roden near the Pike on April 18, 1923 to James and Mary Ann , the third in a large family of eighteen children. Maisie was the oldest and Hubie was second. His father died at the relatively young age of 59 years.
Billy went to school in Rathcabbin to Mr. and Mrs. Bracken. The journey was across the fields, usually wet in winter, and the journey took a 'good half-hour'. There was very little hurling at school. In fact rounders was the game they played mostly. He stayed at school until he was fourteen years, having been confirmed in Rathcabbin Church by the famous Dr. Fogarty. Fathers Flynn and Moloughney are the priests he remembers.
Having left school he went working at home on the farm, following the horses and doing whatever tasks required to be done. Later on he worked for McAinches in their saw mill at the Ferry and at a later stage still for Miss Wellington at Derry. He eventually got a job with the North Tipperary County Council and he worked with them until he retired at 66 years of age.
He got married in November 1953 to Mary Ann O'Meara of the Lake, Lorrha, The wedding took place in Lorrha Church with Fr. Paddy O'Meara, C.C. officiating. The reception was held in Kennedy's Hotel, Birr and the couple went to Dublin on the honeymoon. Mary Ann had worked in Dublin before she married. The black and white photographs from the wedding day show a handsome couple.
Prior to getting married Billy had moved out of Roden and following their marriage Billy and Mary Ann moved into their new home in Derry, Rathcabbin, where they reared a family of five children, three boys and two girls.
Hurling Days with Lorrha
Billy started playing for Lorrha at junior level and there is a reference to the team beaten by Borrisokane in August 1940. Billy played at wingback that day, with brother Hubie in the centre. The next reference we have to Billy is in 1944. He played wing-back with the intermediate team that made good progress in the championship before going down to Toomevara.
Billy was a member of the Lorrha team that won the 1946 intermediate championship. They beat Kildangan, Shannon Rovers, Erin's Hope and Eire Óg to win the north final by 5-6 to 3-5. According to the match report the best for Lorrha were Eugene O'Meara, Billy Hogan, Paddy Guinan, Tom Lambe, Des Donoghue and Mick Brophy. The county semi-final wasn't played until November 16, 1947 and Lorrha defeated Galtee Rovers. In the final on the first Sunday of December, the club made history when they won their first county final, beating Moycarkey Borris by 4-2 to 2-4. The half-back line for Lorrha that day was Billy Hogan, Paddy O'Sullivan and Tom Lambe. It was a tough game and Billy had to get a few stitches in the mouth after it.
Up to now Billy played in the backs for Lorrha but in the first game of the 1947 senior hurling championship – Lorrha were promoted from intermediate – Billy is placed at left corner-forward against Borrisokane. There is a fine picture of a successful Lorrha seven-a-side in 1947 that won a suit-lengths tournament. Billy has a picture of himself in the suit won on the occasion.
If 1946 was a major breakthrough for Lorrha in achieving county intermediate honours, 1948 was to be greater still. In that year the club won their first north senior title in twenty-four years and qualified for the county final before going down to Holycross-Ballycahill. The campaign started against Borrisokane at Roscrea and in this game the two Hogans, Hubie and Billy, ' contributed much to the victory.' Playing at wing-forward against Roscrea in the next round, Billy had a fine game. Lorrha defeated Kildangan in the semi-final in which Billy was back at corner-forward, and defeated Borrisoleigh in appalling conditions before 8,000 people at Nenagh. Lorrha defeated Cashel in the county semi-final before going down to Holycross-Ballycahill in the final. This was a poor display by Lorrha. They led only once after four minutes when Billy scored a goal.
There was a lean time for Billy and Lorrha during the following years and not until 1956 did the good times return again. During these years Billy reverted to playing once more in the backs. For the second round of the 1952 championship, in which they were beaten by Kilruane, Billy was playing at full-back. He was also full-back in 1953, corner-back in 1954, centre-forward in 1955. Billy believes he changed back to the backs as a result of persuasion by Mick Brophy, who convinced him that he would make a better back to a forward. At the same time Brophy himself began to try out the forward position after traditionally being in the backs.
Billy won his second senior divisional medal in 1956, playing at left corner-back. After losing the first round of the senior championship to Kilruane, Lorrha came back with a bang defeating Moneygall, Toomevara in the north semi-final and Borrisoleigh in the final. The south champions, Pearses, were accounted for in the county semi-final before Lorrha went down badly against Thurles Sarsfields in the final.
Billy played senior hurling for one more year, turning out for the 1957 championship. Lorrha had victories over Borrisokane and Shamrock Rovers before going down disastrously to Eire Og in the north semi-final by 4-9 to 0-2. It wasn't the finish to a hurling career that one would like. Maybe the defeat made Billy decide to hang up his boots. He was 34 years of age.
Among the great memories Billy has in hurling one that stands out is a match against Roscrea at Borrisokane in 1946. According to his cousin, Noel Morris, Billy was the first man to do a solo run in that venue. He collected the ball about forty yards out from the Roscrea goals and, instead of striking it, took off on a solo run, beating several backs on his way to goal and eventually tapping the ball over the head of goalkeeper, Martin Loughnane, for a great goal. On his way out he received plenty of belts on the arse from the Roscrea backs. During the solo run he recalls Tom Duffy, who was a selector on the day, shouting at him: 'Are you going to go home with the ball, Billy?'
Playing with Tipperary.
Following victory in the county final of 1948 Holycross were given the selection of the Tipperary team for the 1948-49 National League. At the same time the previous year's champions, Carrick Swan, were given the selection of the team to play Cork in the delayed 1947-48 final. Only eight players were favoured by both sides and they included Tony Reddin and Billy Hogan. It does reflect the impact they had made in the 1948 championship.
Billy played against Offaly in the 1948-49 league during October. Tipperary won by 7-6 to 1-2 and Billy, playing at number 15 scored three goals. He was picked for the 1947-48 league final against Cork at Croke Park at the end of October. Cork won after a bad Tipperary display. According to one report 'the redeeming features of Tipperary's display were the splendid goalkeeping of Reddin, the sterling defensive work of Purcell and Devitt and the efforts of Paddy Kenny and Billy Hogan, newcomers to the forwards to break through a rock-like Cork defence.' The Irish Press stated: 'Hogan also caught the eye.'
Billy also scored Tipperary's only goal. According to the Tipperary Star 'The Cork goalie fumbled and Hogan was upon him like a terrier to net.'
Billy scored a further goal in Tipperary's next outing against Clare at Thurles. He was full-forward. (Incidentally, Brendan O'Donoghue came on as a sub in that game.) Tipperary won by 4-12 to 3-4 and Hogan was 'impressive' scoring a goal. Billy was on against Limerick in the next game and against Galway to win the group. He was a sub in the league final against Cork, beating them by 3-5 to 3-2. Billy recalls sitting on the bench that day beside John Doyle, who was winning the first of his eleven league medals. Billy won his lone medal that day and is very proud of it. Mick Moylan came down from Nenagh to present it to him.
In the months preceding the championship Billy seemed to lose favour with the selectors. He played in the Cusack Shield against Clare and in a couple of other tournaments but he didn't make the championship panel. His last outing with the county selection was in the Monaghan Cup on June 5 when Tipperary defeated Kilkenny in London by 5-14 to 2-4. That is another medal he can be proud of. Billy was very proud to play for Tipperary in London and he recalls his brothers, who lived there at the time, coming to support him on the day.
When Billy was at the height of his playing career he was a strong and effective hurler. As can be seen in the above account he made an impact as a back as well as a forward. One of his finest displays as a forward was against Fletcher of Roscrea one day when he scored three goals. It was as a forward that the Tipperary selectors picked him and it was in the forward position that he played all his county hurling.
He has the distinction of scoring a goal in Croke Park on the occasion of the 1947-48 National League final. On the other hand he played some fine hurling for Lorrha in the back position and his displays in that position in the 1956 championship were some of his best, even though he was then in the autumn of his career. Eugene O'Meara, who played with Billy over many years and who is a shrewd judge of players, sums up Billy's hurling with the statement: He was a good forward but a better backman.
When his brother, Hubie, took up refereeing, Billy used to act as umpire. Others who used to help out were Mick of Blakefield, Jimmy Kennedy, Sean Ryan of Toomevara and Tom Duffy. One of the most important matches refereed by Hubie was the 1953 All-Ireland hurling semi-final between Galway and Kilkenny.
When he stopped playing Billy tuned his attention to selecting teams and was a selector on the Lorrha senior team for a number of years.
In 2004 Billy was honoured with a Sean Gael award in recognition of his contribution to gaelic games. It was a fitting tribute to a man who contributed so much over so many years to the Lorrha club and the county of Tipperary.