| 18.8°C Dublin

'I’d never seen so many people cry after a match, just grown men you wouldn’t associate with that kind of thing'

Close

Borris-Ileigh players, including Brendan Maher, 6, celebrate after their win in the All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final against St Thomas'. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Borris-Ileigh players, including Brendan Maher, 6, celebrate after their win in the All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final against St Thomas'. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

Borris-Ileigh players, including Brendan Maher, 6, celebrate after their win in the All-Ireland Senior Club Championship semi-final against St Thomas'. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It was only after the fact, after he’d conjured up his latest piece of magic, that Brendan Maher decided he’d like to have the broken hurl, with which he’d scored his wonder point against St Thomas’, back in his possession.

It was the final score of his ten-point haul that day as Maher’s brilliant form streaked like a comet across the club championship.

But in the moment, Maher fired his hurl away and gestured frantically for a new one as Borris-Ileigh looked to tip St Thomas' over the edge in their All-Ireland semi-final clash.

"After I scored the point I kind of got a bit carried away with myself and I just threw the hurley over my shoulder into the open stand in the Gaelic Grounds," Maher told The Players Voice, the GPA’s podcast.

For all the latest sports news, analysis and updates direct to your inbox, sign up to our newsletter.

"So after the match then I was saying, 'God I’d love to get that hurley'. At the time I was actually thinking I might actually be able to fix it but then as time went on I was thinking it’d be nice to have it just to hold onto it. But we couldn’t find it. No sign of it.

"So a few of the lads went back out, searched around the sideline, in the stand, no sign of it. So a couple of weeks passed and even some of the lads from the club got onto the Gaelic Grounds to see if the groundsman wouldn’t mind having a look again.

"They were mad to get it, just to have it. I had kind of given up on it but a number of weeks passed, we gave up, said that’s it, it must be gone."

With hope all but disappeared, Maher was going about his business as normal, preparing for Tipperary’s training camp to Spain, when fate intervened in the shape of a 12-year-old from Gort.

“You get letters from young fellas saying you’re my favourite player or I admire you, have you any tips. I thought it was just one of these letters again so I was reading down through it and he said he was 12 years of age from Gort. 'I was at the St Thomas’ game that you scored the point with the broken hurley and I actually have your hurley.'

"He said when the final whistle blew, one of the St Thomas’ lads hit the ball in frustration out towards the open stand and he ran to get the ball and he said he spotted the hurley up in the stand, picked it up and brought it home.

"So I was there thinking, ‘How am I going to ask him for it back?’

"So I wrote a letter back and I explained I was delighted he’d found it because we had been looking for it.

"I said I’ll send on a hurley, a few signed bits from Bourke Sports there, he’s a friend of mine. I left my number and said if you want to give me a call, I’ll meet you with the stuff.

"Next thing the letter was sent and his mam rang me and she was all apologies. ‘Oh my God I never even realised that you’d want the hurley back’.

"She offered to give it back to me but I said if he wants to hold onto it, he can but I would like to have it back.

“So we were arranging to meet and then this lockdown happened so we haven’t actually met yet, so they still have it. I’ll hopefully be able to get it back at some stage during the summer."

That club run would ultimately end in defeat to old foes in the shape of the Kilkenny champions Ballyhale Shamrocks and TJ Reid.

And despite the result that day, Maher ranks that experience as the best of his hurling career.

"It was definitely the best day of my hurling career to be able to do it and that might sound funny when we lost that day but just a hugely proud moment. The club here is so important to us, it really is the fulcrum of the place.

"It’s just created an unbelievable bond among not just the players, the whole parish just feels connected now because of that journey and run we went on. Really special time.

"I’d never experienced that. We were always kind of there or thereabouts losing county quarter-finals, losing county semi-finals, just had never experienced that joy of winning something together. It’s obviously just now something we’ll never forget. To do it so unexpectedly, that made it all the sweeter.

"I’d never seen so many people cry after a match, after the county final win, just grown men that you wouldn’t associate that kind of thing with, showing emotion. It was great. We had a few special moments with each other on the pitch after the county final win and the Munster final win, just something that’s very hard to replicate."

All hurling is on hold. Maher is as enthusiastic as anyone to get a return to action but with his partner Aoife working in Limerick general hospital, there is a daily reminder of the struggles that front-line workers endure.

"It helps me with perspective because you hear stories about people doing different things and complaining about sport not being on, and when is the GAA going to return.

"But being perfectly honest about it, I’d love the GAA to return as soon as possible because I am really missing playing the game, but every time Aoife is going to work or coming from work there is that daily reminder there is a bigger issue here obviously and we need to row it back and have perspective and say we all need to do our bit to keep each other healthy."

Online Editors