McGrath: I dream of leading Tipperary to promised land
IT was a dark place, Shane McGrath recalls. Those few days after Tipp were mauled by Cork on the last Saturday in February.
It should have been one of the best nights of his life. Living the dream, captaining Tipperary, playing Cork, in Cork.
But Tipp were hammered by 12 points and McGrath left the ground nursing what he thought was a broken hand.
A myriad of thoughts swirled through his head. "You'd be thinking, 'I'm going to be out for two months, am I going to get my place back? I'm supposed to be captain this year'," he recalls.
"Lads are supposed to be looking to you as a leader but, touch wood, everything worked out for me and the boys and the management were supportive. They said, 'if it is (broken), we'll get through it together', which is great to hear."
Thankfully it wasn't, as X-rays would later reveal. And McGrath can now shine some perspective on that early-season setback, especially when he heard about Cork footballer Colm O'Neill's third cruciate knee ligament injury.
"I see Colm O'Neill recently, the support he got from a lot of county players is great. We all know what we're all going through," says McGrath (pictured).
"We all know the training and what we put into it and what we do to get to this level. For something like that to happen to someone like Colm O'Neill, it is heartbreaking for a guy. I really hope he recovers well from it."
The scar from the four stitches inserted in McGrath's left hand is still visible and his right hand is bruised after a Waterford opponent accidentally trod on it last Sunday.
Indiscipline cost Tipperary at Walsh Park, McGrath believes. But the trend in the Premier County's last two games against Galway and Waterford, where a combined 1-15 has been conceded to placed balls, isn't causing him undue concern.
McGrath acknowledged: "We gave away a couple of silly frees – indiscipline cost us in the end (against Waterford). (But) we're not going out to give away the frees. We're going out to be as aggressive as we can but as fair as we can at the same time."
While acknowledging Tipp's late fadeout, McGrath insisted that Waterford deserved credit for their fightback, and predicted that Michael Ryan's side will be a championship force.
McGrath noted: "I don't know where people are getting this idea that they (Waterford) are not going to be there or thereabouts – because they are."
For Tipp, the challenge now is to put last Sunday behind them and home in on Clare at Semple Stadium on Sunday.
And for McGrath, the dream lives on. The dream of lifting silverware this year as team captain. And yes, he's allowed his mind to wander.
He smiled: "Yeah I do, like. You do, you have to dream, don't you? You do kind of visualise these things and that's the dream."