Lar Corbett's Tipp return eclipsed by Noel McGrath bombshell
Published 16/04/2015 | 02:30
It should have been a straightforward good news day for Tipperary. The return to training last night of former Hurler of the Year Lar Corbett should have put a pep in the step of Tipp supporters as the weekend's league semi-final with Waterford comes firmly into view.
Instead, that Tipp session last night must have been an unsettling place with the news that Noel McGrath will undergo surgery for testicular cancer tomorrow.
Like most others, former Tipperary All-Ireland winner Eamonn Corcoran only heard the news after the Tipperary county board released a short statement confirming McGrath's operation yesterday morning.
"I nearly crashed the car," Corcoran reflected. "I was talking to Cathal Scully (JK Brackens clubmate) who would be a friend of Noel's and he didn't really know either.
"I was also talking to (former Tipp manager) Liam Sheedy and the whole lot of us were saying that all you can really do is hope and pray that it has been caught early.
"It's at times like this that you forget about hurling.
"The most important thing is that Noel gets right.
"It's a reality check for everyone today. For someone of that age, it's the last thing that crosses your mind but it doesn't matter what age you are and it stresses the importance of regular health checks.
"When I was with the Tipp hurling panel, I used to get them done quite a lot but I haven't had my bloods done for five years.
"I never played with Noel and Brendan Maher, the younger lads who came into the panel after I left, but I'd know Noel through the club scene and he has it all.
"Personality-wise you couldn't meet a more down to earth lad. But right now all you want is for the chap to get through it."
McGrath's absence will be huge blow for Tipp. He was superb as Eamon O'Shea's side recorded an important win over Kilkenny and came from 12 points down to beat Cork in Pairc Ui Chaoimh.
Tipperary's focus may be far from Sunday's semi-final clash in Nowlan Park but Corcoran is convinced Corbett can still offer something to the Premier men as the summer unfolds.
The Thurles Sarsfields man started six of the county's seven championship outings last year and appeared as a sub in the other, hitting 2-9 along the way.
However, a knee injury looked like it could severely limit his impact this term and perhaps even threaten his intercounty future.
But his return to collective training last night was welcomed by Corcoran who believes he can offer an 'X-factor' to the Tipp attack.
"This is great news for Larry personally, I'm absolutely delighted for him and he brings that bit of X-factor with him," Corcoran said.
"Eamon O'Shea has always had great time for Larry and if he's anyway right, he has something to contribute and if it's the right thing for the panel, I have no problems with it.
"And Larry will feel that if he didn't have something to contribute, he wasn't going to come back.
"It's brilliant for Tipperary hurling and the supporters.
"The experience that Larry brings around the place will help a number of young forwards like John McGrath and Niall O'Meara.
"Those lads can learn so much from a Larry Corbett, from his general play and his experience, and he should be able to bring those lads on."
Kieran Bergin and Cathal Barrett will miss Sunday's clash through injury, while Seamus Callanan is suspended.
However, Corbett's clubmate Michael Cahill has also recovered from injury and he believes they have the strength in depth in their squad to cope.
"We've young fellas coming in like Ronan Maher and Mikey Breen making an impression," Cahill said.
"They weren't there over the last couple of years. The strength in depth is there. It's more evident at the moment. There is great competition.
"Back in 2010 and 2009 when we were going well as a group and we'd have the 15-on-15 games, often the so-called second 15 would win it. It's a great sign of a team when you have those guys firing."