A hurling man with no airs or graces, why John Horgan was such a popular writer

Éamonn Murphy pays tribute to the popular reporter and resident Man United fanatic, who worked full-time for the Echo for 46 years
A hurling man with no airs or graces, why John Horgan was such a popular writer

John Horgan, centre, with Éamonn Murphy and John McHale from The Echo sports team.

WHENEVER we get back into Echo towers again, it won’t be the same without John Horgan.

Not that ‘Hoggie’ was the cheeriest company first thing. Particularly if his beloved Manchester United had been beaten. But once he’d butchered his way through his morning scone, there was no better man for a sporting chat.

It’s a small sports department, which means his absence will be all the more keenly felt.

He signed off last week after 46 years working for the company as an expert on Cork GAA, and especially hurling. Vastly experienced, he had the same feel for the game that the best players do. He was passionate and instinctive, capable of analysing matches in a vivid but accessible style.

There was no BS in John’s writing. That’s because he doesn’t suffer from ‘notions’. The type of man who appreciates a leisurely pint with the paper open in a quiet corner of a pub (remember that simple pleasure).

Mr Horgan was as happy heading down to sun-kissed East Cork or Ballinlough for a junior game, or to wind-swept Bansha, Charleville or Kilmallock at Wednesday lunchtime for a Harty Cup match, as to Thurles or Croke Park for inter-county duty.

Man at work: John Horgan at half-time during a PIHC game. Picture: Richard Mills.
Man at work: John Horgan at half-time during a PIHC game. Picture: Richard Mills.

He knew his hurling like few do, but he valued everyone’s opinions. His writing was all the better for that approach.

John wasn’t afraid to share his thoughts, however. 

When you’re working for a local newspaper that means finding the balance between honesty and diplomacy.

He’d offer his preferred starting 15 ahead of big Cork matches, criticise the Cork County Board when appropriate, look at where clubs and county teams needed to improve, and more, without being too cutting.

That’s why I received text messages from Rebels, past and present, to wish him all the best in retirement. It helped that he was cute enough to let me get hurlers’ and supporters’ backs up with the player ratings!

On occasion, the sports editor, John McHale, persuaded him to cover Gaelic football. It was a bonus if Billy Morgan was involved, but that friendship was based more on their sparring over Billy’s beloved Liverpool and Hoggie’s United than the GAA.

Michael Ellard, former Irish Examiner reporter, with John Horgan. Picture: Richard Mills.
Michael Ellard, former Irish Examiner reporter, with John Horgan. Picture: Richard Mills.

Living in Douglas, he’s a very committed family man but the Castlemartyr village in Imokilly moulded him. 

John’s heart remains there and East Cork hurling is the only thing that competed with his family and Man U in his affections.

Doing pre-match predictions for the club championship in a county as big as Cork is a thankless task, so he had a simple approach. When East Cork teams were involved against opposition outside the barony, he always gave them a ‘reluctant nod’.

A risky business as Cloyne were tipped to win three county finals in a row but came up short. That was the sort of team he admired the most, skillful, tough and willing to leave it all on the field. Likewise Carrigtwohill, the ultimate underdog winners in 2011.

As is the nature of this business, nobody lets you forget when you get it wrong.

As he’s admitted a few times since, in the winter of 1991, he suggested Erin’s Own should re-grade to intermediate. The Caherlag outfit, inspired by Timmy Kelleher and Brian Corcoran, instead decided to land their first senior crown in ‘92!

He appreciated the heritage of hurling’s bluebloods too and was there to offer his perspective on Blackrock’s return to the top table last October. He was thrilled to see Glen Rovers capture the Seán Óg Murphy cannister in the past decade and is holding out for St Finbarr’s to lift the trophy again too.

John Horgan was honoured by Kieran McSweeney at the 2013 Cadbury Gaelic Writers Association Awards. Picture: Sportsfile
John Horgan was honoured by Kieran McSweeney at the 2013 Cadbury Gaelic Writers Association Awards. Picture: Sportsfile

Thankfully, his replacement Denis Hurley is a brilliant writer, and Mr Horgan will still be offering his opinion through twice-weekly columns.

The upside of the pandemic is that John avoided a formal farewell in the office. He certainly wouldn’t have wanted editor Maurice Gubbins and sports editor John McHale to make a fuss over him with speeches and presentations.

No more than he’d want me paying tribute to him here!

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