Brendan Maher excited by new Championship format
*By John Harrington *
Tipperary hurler Brendan Maher is a little bit more invested in the PwC Hurling All-Stars trip to Singapore than any other player on the trip.
He’s an employee of sports marketing agency Teneo PSG who count All Stars sponsors PwC as one of their clients, so he was mixing both pleasure and business when he flew out with the rest of the 70-strong party yesterday.
“Yeah, doing a bit of double-jobbing,” said Maher yesterday in Dublin airport just before the players flew out to Singapore.
“No, look it, first and foremost here as a player, but obviously there's a work connection with Teneo PSG and PwC are a client of ours so I'm willing to help out in any way I can.”
Maher took a career break from primary-school teaching this year to join Teneo PSG and test himself in a different work environment, and so far he’s found it a rewarding experience.
“You’re getting to see the other side of the work that goes on before all of these trips and even on match days,” he said.
“Any of the media events that happen, I was just used to turning up on the day as a player and just getting through the actual day itself whereas now I’m seeing all the planning and preparation that goes into it so you can appreciate the work that goes on behind the scenes.
“It’s a bit like ourselves in training, people come and watch us in matches but they don’t realise what goes on in training so it’s very similar so definitely a much greater appreciation for what goes on in the background in order for these things to happen.”
Maher now commutes to Dublin for work, but doesn’t anticipate his new career in any way impeding his commitment to Tipperary hurling.
“No, I suppose they’re a sports agency, they very much accommodating,” he said.
“They want me to do as best I can on the pitch as well so I just have to be flexible with my time and manage my time well and make sure that neither side suffers. I’m used to putting in hard hours and hard work and training.”
Maher had to watch from a distance yesterday while the Galway hurlers on the All-Star trip were pictured in Dublin airport with the Liam MacCarthy Cup, and that sight served to whet his appetite for the 2018 campaign.
“Yeah, definitely. I suppose we’re all here now and 2018 is in the back of your mind and everything is starting a little bit earlier now so we’re back training and it doesn’t be long coming back around.
“But definitely, yeah, when you see the lads with the cup there, you’d be thinking back to ‘16 yourself saying, ‘We had that but we want it again’.”
The 2018 hurling season is shaping up to be a seriously competitive one with a whole host of teams genuinely believing they’re in the running for silverware.
The new format of the provincial championship adds an extra layer of intrigue, and Maher admits the players are looking forward to what the new year will bring as much as the hurling public are.
“Yeah, it is wide open,” he said. “You’d be kind of looking around, you have Waterford, Cork, Clare, Kilkenny, all these teams are knocking around.
“You’re kind of thinking, we need to be ready to go now at the end of January and hopefully get a run of games and a good League and we’re into the mayhem of the Munster Championship then so lots to look forward to, lots of games which is good from a player point of view.
“It’s going to be difficult to manage the training schedule in the mix of it all because it’s going to be a case of maybe just recovering between games rather than training so that’s why we kind of need to get the work done a bit earlier now.”
Maher believes the new championship format that will require teams to win five matches in seven weeks to win a provincial title will benefit those counties with most genuine strength in depth in their panels.
“Definitely because there’s no way you could put out the same 18/19 players every week and expect performances the whole way through because it’s going to be every week,” he said.
“So yeah, we’re going to have to use as much of the panel as possible but, from a player point of view, I hope I’m not rotated too much, I want to play every game! That’s going to show how competitive it’s going to be. If you’re not performing, there’s lads going to be thrown in instead of you.
“I think it’s going to be a real true reflection of the best team because there’s more games and not that you have more chances, but you have more games to play without progressing to the knockout stages.
“At least four games to play so you’re going to have an idea of where you’re at where sometimes with the old format, you only had one game, you were knocked out of provincial and you had to wait them four or five weeks to play your next game so you never really got that flow going but at least now with the new format, you have four weeks, four games, you’re going to get a real true reflection of where the team is at.”