There are no airs and graces about Patrick Horgan’s return to the Cork hurling panel for 2024.
The Rebels’ all-time top scorer is motoring into his 17th season in the inter-county arena but despite such mileage on the clock, he neither requests nor receives special treatment.
On a bitter evening in early December, Hoggie togged out alongside youngsters and newcomers bidding to make an impression for the Teddy McCarthy tribute game against Galway. No delayed return to play here.
He hit the ground running too, slinging over two points within five minutes of his introduction as a half-time substitute.
According to Cork selector Declan Fitzgerald, it underlines his undiminished passion for the game at 35.
“Patrick is back training and that’s the way he wants it. He just likes to be training. The more balls there are flying around training, the more he likes it. He just loves hurling,” said Fitzgerald at the launch of the Co-Op Superstores Munster Hurling League.
“The first thing with Patrick Horgan is that he loves the game of hurling. It’s a huge part of what he is.
“He’s first down to the field every night. He’s out in the field and he’s talking to lads, he’s taking a few shots at goal, he’s taking a few frees, but once he’s training, he’s training.
“He has a great appetite for it. He’s a competitor once he gets out there. He sets high standards and he lets his hurling do the talking. He just loves the game.”
He’s still pulling out all the stops in the pursuit of that All-Ireland medal.
But for Domhnall O’Donovan’s famous equaliser in 2013, Horgan would’ve been the stoppage-time match-winner that day. And Fitzgerald insists no effort is being spared as he inspires his teammates to reach greater heights.
“You’d love to think that Patrick Horgan would have an All-Ireland medal but they have to be won on the field of play.
“A team has to go through a championship and you have to be at the top of your game and your teammates have to be at the top of their game and then you need a bit of luck to go with it as well.
“It isn’t for the want of trying that he doesn’t have an All-Ireland medal. Every year he goes out, I can tell you Patrick Horgan will give his all for the red jersey.
“It’s not that he has to go out and say it, he lets his hurling do to the talking. He models what you’d want in a player on a team.”
Horgan exited the 2022 campaign feeling unfairly treated and Fitzgerald is asked if the change in management gave him a new lease of life last season.
“All I can say about him is that he’s enjoying his hurling. Physically, he’s in superb shape and every night he comes down to training, he sets a great standard in what he does.
“He’s first out onto the field and he’s showing real energy for it every night he’s there. That would tell me that he’s enjoying it.
“That’s what we’re seeing and we’re fortunate that we’re getting a good return out of that as well.”
Fitzgerald coached Glen Rovers in 2003 and ‘06 and while Horgan was too young to feature in the Buttevant native’s first year involved, he still made a strong impression.
“When I was there in 2003 and he wasn’t on the panel, you came down every night and he was in the field.
“There was a gang of them there and they actually won an All-Ireland Féile, under-14, above in Belfast.
“That group were always hurling on the field. We’d come down and get set up for training and they were hurling. The seniors were training and they were hurling. When we were leaving the field, they were still hurling as well so their childhood was just spent in the Glen field all the time.
“He wasn’t an ordinary minor, he was an exceptional minor, and even when he came through with the Glen (in 2005), he’s been setting standards with that club.
“It’s a club with huge tradition and he’s at the very forefront of what the Glen have turned out in the last 100 years of hurlers.”