Maher out to exorcise Thurles demons and settle old score withDe La Salle
IT'S something that sticks in the craw of Thurles Sarsfields.
In years gone by, Sars' have acted as a stepping-stone for others in the Munster championship. Whoever beat the Thurles men generally went on to win the province outright.
Padraic Maher concedes that his side have underachieved. "There's expectation there, I suppose," he agreed. "We've come out of Tipperary with a good set of players, so people are expecting us to do more."
Eight Tipp clubs have managed to conquer the province since the competition's inception, more than any other county, but the best Sars have managed was a final appearance two years ago, when they lost out to tomorrow's opposition, De La Salle, by a point.
Maher played that day. He can recall the bitter conditions that saw most of the GAA action around the country postponed. The wing-back had already collected All-Ireland senior and U-21 medals in six hectic days in September, but when it came to the club scene, they fell short.
"The day itself was freezing, I'll never forget it," Maher said. "It was the time of the hard frost and it was the only game that wasn't called off in the whole of the country, not that that was an excuse. There was only a point in it."
A haul of 17 wides that day compounded their misery as John Mullane hit five of the nine points that were enough to see the Waterford men home.
That result continued a remarkable record the Deise men have enjoyed in the competition since winning their inaugural Waterford title in 2008.
They have gone unbeaten in Munster since, a streak that now extends to five matches.
"They are a good team," said Maher. "People are saying we're a better team than we were two years ago and we are older, but they have got a few young players too.
"I know they have only been in it a few years, but I don't think they have ever been beaten in the Munster championship, so we know what is ahead of us.
"Kevin Moran had a great year for Waterford and we all know about John Mullane. Brian Phelan is there too, so they have good players. No matter who you meet at this stage it's going to be tough."
In Mullane and Lar Corbett, Pairc Ui Chaoimh will host two of the game's brightest lights tomorrow. The club has offered Corbett the chance to put the All-Ireland semi-final debacle behind him and there was a glimpse of his old form in his goal against Sarsfields from Cork.
And, Maher insisted, he's not the only one out for redemption.
"That man took the brunt of the criticism after the Kilkenny game. He's performing well with the club and got a great goal against Cork Sarsfields that we badly needed in the end. He's enjoying his hurling and he wants to get back into a Tipp jersey so he can prove the critics wrong.
"The way we were beaten with Tipp, we went down without a fight you could say. We are in the Munster final now with the club. It would be great to turn the thing around.
"In a way, it'd nearly help you forget what happened with Tipp this year and for the county it self, it'd do Tipp hurling a world of good, too.
"Everyone would know Tipp hurling is alive."