Thursday 23 November 2017

Maher insists GAA could learn from cricket format

Tipperary hurler Brendan Maher at Leinster Cricket Club in Rathmines. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Tipperary hurler Brendan Maher at Leinster Cricket Club in Rathmines. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Spending time with a professional cricket squad in Australia has given Tipperary hurler Brendan Maher the opportunity to compare codes.

Swapping the cold Thurles training nights for the sun with the Adelaide Strikers has left a lasting impression on him, opening his eyes to how other athletes train and approach their craft.

It also highlighted how other organisations structure their competitions, a topic causing great debate in GAA circles, and it has strengthened the Borris-Ileigh clubman's view that the hurling calendar must change.

After a last-gasp defeat to Waterford, the Tipp captain enjoys getting back on the horse this weekend against Galway.

Championship would not afford such a chance, however, and Maher's side were victims of their own success in 2015 when forced to wait five weeks following their Munster final win.

It doesn't happen in the League, or the Big Bash League for that matter, and the 27-year-old believes the gap between competitive games doesn't serve players' needs.

"We had a disappointing loss on Sunday, but we get the chance to go out again next week," Maher said. "If it was the Championship you play a game and it might be five weeks before you get the chance again.

"It's really enjoyable to have a game to go out to week-on-week. The cricketers couldn't believe we were training for so few games. The way the Big Bash is, is a game every five or six days. I'd love that set-up.

"Their season is like eight weeks. They play seven games, a semi-final and final. You are training for a game each week. There's nothing worse than just training, training, training, and having no game.

"I'm not going to get into how you manage that or how you go about changing that but as players all you want to do is play games."

Togging out in a different dressing-room with a different group also emphasised a different attitude to sport for the primary teacher. The jovial nature of his cricketing colleagues showed how over-the-top the GAA can be.

The 2010 Young Hurler of the Year's love of the game is deep-rooted but he feels that players' immense dedication to the cause may be impinging on why they started to played the game - fun.

"I think in most GAA teams training is very serious, you can't laugh or you can't smile nearly," he said. "In the warm-ups they were all laughing and joking, it was really relaxed. I was thinking, 'Maybe the GAA should have that approach a little bit more'.

"This time of the year, togging out to go out into muck and rain and hail, you need something to get you into the buzz and it really is probably a testament of a GAA player that he has the motivation to go out and go through torture in January and February without that.

"They would have a few beers after each game," he added. "Or even if there was a barbecue, a few days before the game they would all be there with their coach having a few beers. There's no way we'd do this in the GAA. I said, 'if you had a beer two or three months before a game you'd nearly be lambasted for it.' They were like, 'what?' They couldn't believe the dedication that's given."

Sunday's trip to Salthill will be a reacquaintance with new Galway boss Micheál Donoghue, who was part of Eamon O'Shea's Premier backroom team. Maher always knew he was destined for inter-county management

"He's a great fella, a great coach and I'm sure he'll be telling them all he got to know about us as well coming to the game. He's got a very good hurling brain and I really enjoyed working with him," he said.

"He always had ambitions to be a manager and I wish him the best up there."

Maher is back doing what he knows and loves best, there won't be any fours or sixes but he is aiming to strike it big with Tipp.

Irish Independent

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