Friday 28 April 2017

Rising star Maher eyes Premier glory on two fronts

Tipperary captain Padraic Maher (right) and Clare captain John Conlon met halfway on the bridge at Killaloe, Co Clare and Ballina, Co Tipperary, ahead of tomorrow night's Bord Gáis Energy Munster GAA U-21 hurling final.
Tipperary captain Padraic Maher (right) and Clare captain John Conlon met halfway on the bridge at Killaloe, Co Clare and Ballina, Co Tipperary, ahead of tomorrow night's Bord Gáis Energy Munster GAA U-21 hurling final.

Jackie Cahill

THE challenges are coming thick and fast for Padraic Maher and Tipperary. Hectic times, the All Star defender admits, but better than twiddling your thumbs for the remainder of the summer.

And so, as some of the more senior Tipp players celebrated their remarkable All-Ireland quarter-final victory over Galway on Sunday evening, Maher and his U-21 colleagues were in a swimming pool, readying themselves for the next challenge.

That arrives tomorrow night in Thurles when the Premier County face Clare in the Munster U-21 final but yesterday the talk was still of Galway and Croke Park.

"It was a big win to get over Galway like that," said the 21-year-old. "We're building a bit of momentum now."

Tipp were slated by many following their Munster quarter-final collapse to Cork and Maher believes that harsh lesson may have helped Liam Sheedy's men in the long run.

Learning

"We just didn't perform -- I just think Cork wanted it more than us. But it was a good learning curve for us younger players and helped us a lot.

"It was a nice little kick up the arse, especially after such a good year last year, to keep our feet on the ground. But we took things out of that game and improved. We're getting our form back again.

"It's especially a big boost for our U-21 hurlers."

With just minutes remaining against Galway, it had appeared that Maher would be focusing solely on U-21 fare for the remainder of the season, but that last-gasp revival extended his senior campaign.

"You never think it's gone until it's over," reflected Maher. "We stuck at it until the end. We showed a bit of character there at the end: we didn't give up."

In the meantime, there are U-21 commitments to attend to as Tipp look to regain the provincial crown they last won in 2008.

"In a way it's hard three days after a senior match. But you're into the hurling and you like them coming thick and fast. It's going to be another tough game," said Maher.

A hard-fought extra-time victory against Cork in the semi-final at Pairc Ui Chaoimh sent Tipperary through to the Munster showpiece. They required a late Seamus Hennessy goal from a 20m free to take the game into extra-time and the result helped ease the pain of the senior thrashing at the hands of the Rebels at the same venue on May 30.

For Maher, that was his first serious experience of what it's like to live as a Tipperary senior hurler within your native county when things don't go according to plan. He insists that the criticism didn't affect him, and claimed that it was somewhat unjustified.

"Last year we played well enough. We were unlucky in the All-Ireland final," he said. "We had one bad day (against Cork). If you're knocked after one bad day, there's something wrong."

Irish Independent

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