Monday 11 December 2017

'Bit of devil' key to McGrath's red-hot streak

Eoin Kelly hails 'bold' approach of young forward whose lethal goalscoring is helping to drive this Tipperary team to new levels

John McGrath leaps high into the air to make a brilliant catch ahead of Wexford’s Matthew O’Hanlon (left) and Liam Ryan on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile
John McGrath leaps high into the air to make a brilliant catch ahead of Wexford’s Matthew O’Hanlon (left) and Liam Ryan on Sunday. Photo: Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

John McGrath is delivering goals for Tipperary at a rate better than one a game. His double strike to down Wexford on Sunday took his tally to 10 in nine games, starting from his Munster final hat-trick against Waterford last July.

Goals in the All-Ireland semi-final and final have been followed by five more in four of the six League games he has played in this campaign.

Only against Clare, when Tipperary didn't score any goal, and against Offaly in a predictably one-sided quarter-final has the younger McGrath brother failed to register since that rout of Waterford.

It's a phenomenal streak that reflects the confidence coursing through Tipperary.

The almost "telepathic" understanding between McGrath and his fellow attackers is something that 2010 All-Ireland winning captain Eoin Kelly is really enjoying from this Tipperary team, the first from the county to push on into the following year's League final as All-Ireland champions since the 1960s.

"John passed a comment in his post-match interview that he knew he was getting the pass from Dan McCormack, but he is that kind of player," said Kelly.

"He knew he was getting the pass; these players know if they're in a better position, John will give them the ball. He gives that pass when it's on himself.

"Unselfish players sometimes seem to get it back in abundance too when they're in themselves for a scoring opportunity. It's telepathic between himself, Noel (his brother) and the rest of the forwards.

"They're really playing as a unit. Once you have that, once you're making these runs and these off the shoulder moves and you get the ball, it's really the team that prospers. John is one of the players who has brought that to the team."

Kelly feels McGrath has quickly developed into one of the most important players on the team and consequently in the game.

"He would have arrived a year earlier only for injury prior to the 2015 Championship. He's been coming a while. William Maher, the 2012 minor manager, often said that he was one of the best minors he saw. He earmarked him from 2012," said Kelly.


"It just seems to be his positioning… he's unselfish, he's a bit bolder than Noel. You can see that. Sometimes the eldest is the quietest in the family, and he has made way for the young guys to have that bit more of a devil in him.

"You see him breaking a tackle and he's gone heading for goal and maybe the referee might blow him back. He's on to the ref to stress to him he was in for a goal.

"He's like a guy that's playing two or three seasons, even though last year was his first Championship.

"He's bolder, which you need in all good forwards."

McGrath's quiet confidence is permeating throughout the team.

"He's a joy to watch and just great to play with," said Kelly. "Whether it's coming in high or low, one against two, one against three, whatever way he wins it.

"It's like he can hoover up every ball that comes in around him.

"His skill levels are top notch… it's his brain, sometimes you can't coach that in him. Noel has the same instinct. When they get it inside they think 'goal' straight away."

The manner in which Tipperary killed off a competitive match in the last 10 minutes reflects a team whose killer instinct is hardening all the time.

And while the significance of reaching a League final as All-Ireland champions - with the inference that Tipp not resting on their laurels - isn't lost on Kelly, he feels it's too easy to forget that his 2010 team followed on with a Munster title in 2011, the first time that was also achieved since the '60s.

"People have this idea that the 2010 team went crazy but we won a Munster title the following year which was another big obstacle overcome," he recalled.

Kelly is looking forward to Tipp's team selection, because of its uncertainty, ahead of Sunday's League final in the Gaelic Grounds against a Galway side that hasn't yielded anything in their most recent meetings.

"There was only one puck of a ball between them in the league match last year. Only 'Bubbles' Dwyer's equaliser saved Tipp going into relegation battle with Cork," warned Kelly.

"Micheal Donoghue has an inside track on Tipp, he was in there with Eamon O'Shea for a couple of years and plucked one of the key backroom guys since.

"It pits two of the biggest teams against each other. If you looked at these two teams walking in and didn't know them you might ask if it was a rugby game. They're the two most physical sides around."

Irish Independent

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