Barrett 'mad for action' as Tipp set sights on elusive League crown
It has been a long road back from surgery for Cathal Barrett, but the tigerish Tipperary defender is fully fit and "mad for action" as he hopes to add an Allianz League medal to the All-Ireland crown the Premier men collected in stylish fashion last September.
Ankle ligament problems forced the Holycross-Ballycahill corner-back to go under the knife over the winter, with the "final straw" coming when he went over on it against Galway in last year's epic All-Ireland semi-final win, but it didn't affect his performances in the slightest.
Barrett was one of Tipp's most consistent players throughout 2016, delivering a series of swashbuckling displays as he repelled some of the game's finest attackers, en route to a first All-Star to add to his 2014 Young Hurler of the Year award.
The 23-year-old made his long-awaited return to competitive action with a 25-minute cameo against Offaly in a League quarter-final stroll and is set to be in the mix for Sunday's much-anticipated last-four clash with Wexford, managed by his former Limerick IT mentor Davy Fitzgerald.
Rehab was painstaking at times as he watched on from the sidelines but Barrett, who got more game-time against the Premier U-21 side last Tuesday night, is "delighted to finally get back on the field" and is looking forward to putting the shoulder to the wheel.
"The surgery was something I needed the last couple of years and the only time of the year I was going to be able to get it done was in the off-season," he explained. "It wasn't going to cost me a full year out or anything like that so it made perfect sense to me.
"I'm just delighted to be back fully fit because we set out our stall at the start of the year that we were going to try and win the League and we're still in it so it's job done so far.
"Only two lads on the panel have League medals so it's definitely something I want to win."
Barrett has quickly established himself as a no-nonsense defender, comfortable on the ball and equally effective without it, but in his absence Tipp's squad depth has shone through as new faces put their hands up for selection at the back and put pressure on established starters.
Donagh Maher, Tomás Hamill, Joe O'Dwyer, Alan Flynn, John O'Keeffe and John Meagher, none of whom started a Championship game last season, have all staked their claim to varying degrees, but Barrett feels that "competition for places is what it's really all about".
All signs suggest that Michael Ryan hasn't allowed Liam MacCarthy success to blinker their vision, and the Tipp boss wielded the axe yesterday, trimming six players from his extended panel following a weekend training camp at Abbottstown's Centre of Excellence.
Andrew Coffey, Tommy Heffernan, Padraig Greene, Stephen Cahill, Dylan Fitzell and Willie Ryan have all been deemed surplus to requirements.
Attacker Niall O'Meara is an injury worry ahead of Sunday's Nowlan Park tussle with Wexford (4.0). The Kilruane MacDonaghs forward excelled against Offaly, hitting five points from play, but sat out the weekend training sessions.