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We never got going after final defeat, admits Maher

Tipperary’s Ronan Maher: ‘It’s nice to concentrate on just the one team at the minute’. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Tipperary’s Ronan Maher: ‘It’s nice to concentrate on just the one team at the minute’. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It's just under a year since Tipperary's Ronan Maher and Diarmuid O'Keeffe of Wexford landed to the Anner Hotel in Thurles to promote the upcoming league semi-final between the teams.

Tipp would win that encounter on a day remembered for Davy Fitzgerald's incursion on the field of play and the subsequent ban both he and Jason Forde were hit with in the aftermath.

What Tipp didn't know at the time was it was the last time they'd feel comfortable that year.

As Maher puts it, defeat to Galway in the league final put them in a tailspin they'd never feel like they'd dug themselves out of. Even though they reached the All-Ireland semi-final and would lose only narrowly, Maher feels like they never quite found their groove again.

"We lost a bit of momentum, we were going well in the league but Galway caught us on the hop, they were really strong and had an exceptional year," Maher recalls, ahead of their clash with Wexford in Semple Stadium on Saturday night.

"We never got going after the league final, we didn't have that momentum going through to the championship. But Galway proved last year they were a savage team, they showed that last year.

"It knocked us back, naturally, we lost that momentum. But we just tried to recover as quick as we could to focus on Cork for the championship, but it didn't pay off.

"We'll have to have our heads screwed on this year, but I don't think winning the All-Ireland the year before, that that was weighing us down."

So Tipperary and Maher are out for the big year they promised themselves in 2017.

Maher himself is set up for a big season. Having joined the senior panel when straight out of minor, he's now in his fifth season with the squad.

Things will be a little different this year as he has taken a year out from his studies in Mary I in Limerick but he plans to return to study to become a secondary teacher.

And having previously served a number of different masters at this time of year, he's happy to have just one focus.

"I'm on a year out at the minute, not going back to Mary I," says the 22 year-old.

"My plan is to do secondary teaching so I've applied for a good few colleges for next year and please God one of them will be offer me a position.

"I've an Arts degree from Mary I. I'm just taking the year out, chilling and concentrating on training.

Hectic

"From previous years I have been hurling club from U-21 up to Christmas and then you are brought straight back into Fitzgibbon and pre-season with the seniors.

"It's a pretty hectic time of the year but I suppose this year I can concentrate on my county, do all the training, all the pre-season with them, all the fitness and all the gym.

"It's a big help, there are not teams pulling out of you here and there, you're not trying to keep everyone happy and there is not as much pressure on you. It's nice to concentrate on just the one team at the minute.

But he insists he's not taking the year out exclusively for hurling. 

"I did my Leaving Cert when I was 17 and went straight to college and have been studying for the last four years and I wanted to take that break out and be fully tuned in going back to my post-graduate, it's a two-year course and I will be well prepared for that.

"But I would have probably have taken the year out any way if I wasn't hurling and get the head back and refresh and concentrate on going back in."

Michael Ryan has been experimenting in their opening two league games. Maher has had a stint in midfield while Cathal Barrett has also been shifted into the middle third. And Maher wants his side to be more flexible in how they play.

"It's just not to be too predictable I suppose. Last year we were very predictable.

"It's giving new lads opportunities as well to play in different positions and there's a lot of new lads coming into the panel so it's just trying to change things up at the minute, giving everybody their chance."

Wexford have made a flying start to life back in hurling's top flight with two wins from two.

And Maher accepts Fitzgerald's men offer an alltogether different type of challenge.

"You have to adapt to that and confront them with something different. They're similar enough to Waterford with the running off the shoulder and they're very fit at the minute.

"We have to track their runners and so on but we'll concentrate on ourselves, on our own tactics, rather than dwelling too much on Wexford."

Irish Independent

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