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John McGrath hits new peaks – with six man-of-the-match awards in a row – as his fight on dual journey races on

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Loughmore-Castleiney's John McGrath after the drawn Tipperary SHC final against Thurles Sarsfields at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Loughmore-Castleiney's John McGrath after the drawn Tipperary SHC final against Thurles Sarsfields at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Loughmore-Castleiney's John McGrath after the drawn Tipperary SHC final against Thurles Sarsfields at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

It’s the apex of the club season, a little later than usual due to Covid restrictions earlier this year putting all the GAA’s best-made plans back by at least six weeks.

But it has, nonetheless, thrown up its usual quota of remarkable stories and defiant acts.

From Mountbellew-Moylough’s first Galway senior football success in 35 years to Glen’s maiden Derry triumph seven days earlier and Kilmacud Crokes’ stunning comeback from nine points down with fewer minutes left to force extra-time in Saturday evening’s Dublin hurling final, where they won comfortably, breaking Na Fianna’s hearts as they chased a first title, there has been no scarcity of drama in all corners and pockets of the land.

But is there a storyline quite like Loughmore-Castleiney’s as they pursue a second Tipperary double in eight years with up to 13 players fighting on both fronts over the last 15 weekends in succession?

And within that, has there been a measure of consistent excellence from a club player through much of that time across both codes greater than there has been from John McGrath?

As a glorious early winter sun was just dipping below the Killinan End in Semple Stadium on Sunday evening, McGrath was clutching a piece of glass, courtesy of his latest man-of-the-match performance, as he spoke to family and friends before turning to head back to the dressing-rooms following a magnificent finale to their Tipperary hurling final draw with Thurles Sarsfields.

Such awards can be a subjective business and there is no doubt that his colleague John Meagher was also a strong contender.

But McGrath’s official recognition as the game’s top performer – he scored 12 points, four from play and made so many key interventions – was in keeping with the previous five weekends when he has earned that same recognition by consensus from local media and spectators alike.

In the previous week’s football semi-final against Moyle Rovers, it was his goal that brought the sides level, 1-7 each, before they struck a late winner to qualify for back-to-back finals.

The weekend before that McGrath had been masterful in their hurling semi-final against Borris-Ileigh, scoring 1-12, including a penalty, nine frees and a ‘65’.

The football quarter-final didn’t produce big scores as Loughmore edged out Kilsheelan-Kilcash by 0-9 to 1-5 but again, local media reports recognised McGrath as the biggest influence.

Same story in the hurling quarter-final when he blitzed Kilruane with four first-half goals, including two penalties, as he scored 4-6 overall in a 4-15 to 0-21 win. Even their preliminary hurling quarter-final against Killenaule threw up another prolific McGrath effort with 1-6 (0-4 from frees).

McGrath may not have hit those heights with Tipp during the summer but competing on two fronts to such a high standard, as he and his colleagues continue to do, has become a way of life.

“You try not to think about it too much at times,” he said.

“We are probably aware of how well we are competing and that’s what we have been brought up with, what we have been brought up watching. When I was young that’s just the way it was, you competed in both very strongly and long may it continue.”

And he sees benefits in playing as they are from week-to-week, being able to switch off from one code to another a help not a hindrance.

“I think there’s a huge benefit in playing every weekend. We are battle-hardened and I think it’s maybe a soft excuse to complain about it,” he said.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​


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