Back garden rumbles helped steel McGrath boys
Published 13/07/2016 | 02:30
Even in the McGrath household, where All-Ireland medals, All Stars and county titles adorn the mantelpiece, last Sunday must have gone down as a red letter day for the Loughmore-Castleiney clan.
Noel pulled the strings in the Munster final win over Waterford while younger brother John grabbed a sensational hat-trick as he announced himself to the hurling world. A few hours earlier, another sibling, Brian, skippered the Tipp minors to provincial success.
"There was (pride), it's great to have your brothers playing the same day," said eldest brother Noel. "We're used to it from playing with the club and going off to the matches together, it's not that much different. It's whatever players are on the field, you just have to get on with it and play away.
"But it's obviously nice to have your brothers playing on the same day and especially on a day like Sunday when the two teams won."
He laughs now at the memory of the "rows and fights" in the back garden that helped steel them for the biggest days.
"We'd have loads of cousins and friends calling over when we were younger and what else was there to do only go out and play football or hurling? There's been plenty of times over the years when we've had plenty of rows and fights but it's all in good nature. That's just the way it was and the way we all were."
And in classic older brother style, Noel was keen to ensure that hat-trick hero John wouldn't be getting too carried away as they return to action in the Mid-Tipp SHC semi-final this weekend.
"For a first Munster final, you couldn't ask for more than getting three goals in a Munster final," he said.
"He's fairly relaxed about it and just taking it in and enjoying it. He'll be brought back down to earth on Sunday against Moycarkey, it'll be a different ball game. If he can get three again, we'll be the happier with that."
The joy the McGraths felt last Sunday was in stark contrast to the Munster final of 12 months ago when Noel was recovering from testicular cancer and Liam was battling persistent osteitis pubis trouble.
And Noel is pleased that his own health issues are behind him,
"You hear stories and you think it's never going to happen to you," he said.
"Then it's just thrown on you in the space of a few hours. You're going to be down but you have to deal with it and get right. Luckily I had good people around me."