Beating cancer to win the All-Ireland the 'stuff of dreams' for Noel McGrath
Published 06/09/2016 | 02:30
Coming back from cancer to win an All-Ireland is the "stuff of dreams" for Noel McGrath - who admits he thought he'd never play in Croke Park again.
The All-Star Tipperary forward underwent surgery for testicular cancer in April 2015 - but on Sunday he helped land the Premier County a first Liam MacCarthy Cup in six years.
McGrath was among a group of tired Tipp hurlers who took a lengthy break from celebrating their win over Kilkenny to visit Our Lady's Hospital for Sick Children, Crumlin - which he said helped put everything into perspective.
"It's a tough place for a lot of families and we're just delighted to come in and if it puts a smile on some of the kids' faces, and the parents', we're just delighted to do it and it's a nice experience for us as well," McGrath said.
Recalling his own health battle, he said: "Fifteen months ago I never thought I'd be playing in Croke Park, let alone going up the steps at Croke Park, or watching Brendan (Maher) lift up the cup.
"It was tough for me for a few months in 2015, but look I'm just delighted to be back playing and delighted to be on the pitch and doing what I can for Tipperary and I'm just absolutely thrilled to be part of an All-Ireland-winning team. I was just delighted to be able to get back playing to whatever level I could get back to - I wasn't sure what that would be.
"There's people affected with a lot different and worse things than I was. I was lucky and was well looked after and got back to good health in a short space of time."
The McGrath family took centre stage at Croke Park on Sunday - with three sons of Pat and Mary winning Celtic Cross medals on the same day.
Noel's brother John starred alongside his brother in the forward line, while the youngest in the family, Brian, captained the Premier to Minor All-Ireland success.
But there's no special diet in the McGrath household, according to Pat.
"From three years of age, Noel was always tipping away with a hurley. He'd come to training and one of the lads would puck a ball to him, he might puck it back to them, or he might not," Pat said.
"Brian was the very same as Noel. From the day they could go out the door, they wouldn't leave without a hurl.
"You go out and play with them on the lawn and you go out and play with them until they get so big that you compete with them," he added, saying it was a dream to see his boys succeed at the highest level in Croker.