Tuesday 24 April 2018

Pádraic Maher: Our hurling will finish the job if we match Galway work-rate

Tipperary's Padraic Maher. Photo: Sportsfile
Tipperary's Padraic Maher. Photo: Sportsfile

Jackie Cahill

Almost 23 minutes into last year's All-Ireland semi-final against Galway, Pádraic Maher delivered one of the moments of Tipperary's hurling summer.

David Burke had won possession for Galway inside his own half, before scooping the sliotar to Joe Canning on the Hogan Stand side of Croke Park.

Canning evaded a challenge from Noel McGrath but he wouldn't survive a perfectly-timed Maher hit.

Canning was sent sprawling into touch and, with the sides level at the time, Tipp's bulwark had sent out a clear statement.

Nine minutes later Maher was back on the edge of his own small parallelogram, executing a superb hook to deny Conor Cooney what looked like a certain Galway goal.

Physicality, in the first instance, and pure work-rate to deny Cooney, were hallmarks of Tipp's successful campaign under manager Michael Ryan, who had promised increased levels of both after taking charge.

Ahead of next Sunday's rematch with Galway - the third successive year the counties have met at this stage of the All-Ireland series - captain Maher knows that nothing less will be good enough again.

He said: "We know nothing else is going to get us through but to work our asses off against Galway because they are the kind of team that do the same, they have a really strong work ethic within the group at the moment, you can see that in the games they played so we have to match it and beat it if we can."

Those ingredients were missing, Maher says, when the sides met in the League final in April, as Galway dished out a 16-point hammering.

But after losing to Cork in Munster, Tipp have strung together three successive wins through the back door to book a Croke Park return.

And Maher has seen recent flashes of what brought the Premier County all the way last year.

He said: "You would notice it. It was one massive area we were missing in the Galway game in the league final, and a lot of the Cork game too, it was a very open, loose kind of game.

"We knew we had to get back to basics and get our work-rate, and we know if we hit them points on the head, it will take a fair team to beat us.

"We are working on that area and it is what Mick demands of us, ever since he came in at the start of 2016, he wanted us to give our all and work as hard as we can, and our hurling would take of itself after that."

Maher admits that there were aspects of the quarter-final victory over Clare that need to improve.

But he was pleased with the character displayed down the home straight, after Clare had reeled off six unanswered points to get to within one.

He said: "In fairness to the lads, there is massive believe in the group and that comes from experience over the last number of years and it was great to be able to draw on it.

"Maybe we would have folded a couple of years ago but the belief within the group is massive at the moment.

"We gave them an opportunity to get back in the game, which they took, but you'd have to take the positive out of it in that we finished the game very strongly."

But Maher realises that Galway have moved on from last August.

And the Tribesmen can boast some inside knowledge of Tipperary ahead of next Sunday.

Their manager, Micheál Donoghue, worked with Tipp for two years before taking the job in his native county.

And last October, Donoghue moved to poach highly-rated strength and conditioning coach Lukasz Kirszenstein from the Premier County.

Ahead of last year's All-Ireland final, Maher credited Kirszenstein with increased mobility levels - and says the Pole has been a "massive addition" to Galway.

He explained: "He came from a rugby background and he was able to interlink the gym with the type of drills we need for hurling.

"He is gone now and we have Ciaran (Keogh) in.

"From what I can see, a lot of these strength and conditioning guys, they all so the same type of thing anyway.

"I don't think it is going to have any bearing on what way the game will go on Sunday."

Maher stops short of describing the mouth-watering weekend fixture as a League final 'revenge mission' - but says that those memories should fuel Tipp's motivation.

He said: "We want to prove that we are never as poor as we were that day.

"It's going to be a massive game for us and the thing about it is that you have to have massive motivation going into a game like this because the last two years have shown that there is nothing between Tipp and Galway when it comes to championship.

"We are always going to be criticised after a result like that.

"The manner of the way we were beaten - we were well-beaten - you are going to have to take it on the chin and move on.

"I think slowly but surely we are getting back to where we want to be. We are by no means at that at the moment but we are very close.

"Once we get the work-rate right and we get the tackle count right we feel our hurling will finish the job."

Irish Independent

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