Five-week gap will not be an excuse for Tipp, insists McGrath
Twelve months ago Noel McGrath made a miraculous recovery from testicular cancer to feature for Tipp in their heart-breaking semi-final loss to Galway. But while the same opponents clash again on Sunday, much has changed.
Pulling on the blue and gold of the Premier again was a massive personal milestone for McGrath, who received a thunderous ovation when introduced and arrowed over a beautiful point which looked like being a fairytale winner, but his "biggest memory is losing the game".
It's clear that the hurt of 2015 has moulded Tipp into a different animal this year. There's an edge to them, with Michael Ryan shaping a steely side built on substance as well as style.
There is also a fresh energy. McGrath, Padraic Maher, Patrick 'Bonner' Maher and Seamus Callanan were the young cubs in Tipp's 2010 triumph but an influx of youngsters like Noel's younger brother John and Michael Breen have added something extra.
"There's days you go out and everything will click, and others when not everything will," said McGrath. "There was still only a point in it last year so it could've gone either way and that's just the difference in people saying it's a good performance or a bad performance.
"There's a lot of things different in both camps this year. A lot has changed, we're in a different place, and two different teams will be going out on the field.
"A few lads are after coming in around 20, 21 and 22 and are after making a big impact and for the rest of us that are in our mid to late 20s, it's up to us to help bring them along. You've a good mix of experience and youth coming in so there's a good blend."
Loughmore-Castleiney attacker McGrath was crowned Tipp Person of the Year for his brilliant cancer awareness work and while getting back in action last August was special, Sunday will surely rival it as he lines out beside John in Croke Park, while his younger brother Brian captains the minors against Galway in the curtain-raiser.
After waiting a year to get back to this position, McGrath is adamant that Tipp won't be using the five-week gap from Munster final success as a crutch.
"There's a lot made of this five weeks. We had seven-eight weeks before the first round of the Munster championship without any match. It's been done before, Kilkenny are doing it year after year," the two-time All-Star said.
"So if people want to use it after a defeat it's easy to be used but we won't be using it as any excuse. I'd rather be waiting five weeks than be out of the championship."
After some turbulent times off the pitch, McGrath is hoping to do all his talking on it. As always.