Ronan Maher: 'Only two players in our panel have a League medal'
By Cian O’Connell
Challenges continue to arrive thick and fast, but Ronan Maher continues to meet them all.
The 2016 All Ireland, Munster, and All Star winning journey brought medals and memories, but Maher is simply focused on the present.
Ensuring Tipperary remain perched on the summit of the hurling world in September is what Michael Ryan is planning to do, but the Allianz Hurling League matters too.
A Nowlan Park Semi-Final against Wexford is another encounter which Maher is looking forward to operating in. “Yeah, it is, they are after having a great campaign in the League so far,” Maher says.
“I suppose Davy Fitzgerald is after bringing them up to a whole new level, we are looking forward to the task at the weekend. It isn't going to be any simple, it is going to be a huge battle, and we expect nothing more than a heavy game.”
Tipperary secured their Quarter-Final berth by claiming three early wins in the competition with Maher stressing it is a trophy the Premier County want to win.
"Michael Ryan keeps us down to earth, he is a very honest man."
“I suppose, we set out at the start of the winter to try to push, to try to win a League. Only two players in our panel have a League medal, so not many of us do. We really want to push on to try to win one. It isn't easily done, it is obvious enough.
“The longer you are in the League, the better. It is great coming up to the Championship when you are still in the League because you are playing an awful lot of matches, it keeps you sharp and keeps you fresh. All we want to do is to stay in it as long as we can to try to push on to win it.”
Following the glory of 2016 how difficult was it for Tipperary to reset for the current campaign? “Michael Ryan keeps us down to earth, he is a very honest man,” Maher remarks. “We all know that we want to achieve bigger things again this year, I suppose for the older lads in the panel in 2010 they didn't really push on after that.
“They are maybe regretting that ever since, their experience in the panel brought it to the younger lads saying to knuckle down straightaway to do the work. Focusing on the League was our first starting point, we can try to push on in the Championship then.
“We know ourselves that last year is gone now, it is a whole new year. The Championship is so competitive, the League is competitive. We had a great start in the League, but I suppose Cork got the better of us which brought us back down again.
“We put our focus back on Offaly, we got over them and now Sunday is another difficult one against Wexford. They've been a great, great team under Davy Fitzgerald, we are just focusing on them for now.”
Maher has worked under two loyal servants to the Tipperary cause at senior level in Eamon O’Shea and Michael Ryan, who guided the county to a first All Ireland crown since 2010 last year. “Michael Ryan has an awful lot of experience,” Maher states.
“He was working alongside Eamon O'Shea for a while, the two of them were exceptional coaches together. Michael Ryan is maybe a bit more traditional, he really allows us to express ourselves, he is a great manager, he puts great belief in the group, it is great.
"Eamon O'Shea was much the same, the two of them working together probably gave him great experience, and it is helping us out in the long run.”
Throughout the League Ryan has afforded emerging talent an opportunity to shine in the blue and gold jersey. Thurles Sarsfields’ star Maher feels the depth of the Tipp panel has improved as a result.
“That is evident enough, he has made an awful lot of changes in this League campaign,” Maher acknowledges. “An awful lot of lads have put their name up to get a chance in the team. He freshened it up a lot, it is so competitive every night in training, it is a very healthy environment for us to have at training every night.
"It would be nicer to go on to win another one, that is the focus we would be trying to have, to back it up."
“That is thanks to Michael Ryan and his selection team, he is giving everybody a great chance and a great shout. It is up to yourself if you want to try to get on the team or the panel as well.”
Maher’s brother Padraic is now the Tipperary captain, but hurling talk is kept to a minimum. “Not really,” Maher replies when asked whether they discuss sporting matters deeply.
“It was unbelievable to win in September, something you'd have been dreaming about for an awful long time. It would be nicer to go on to win another one, that is the focus we would be trying to have, to back it up. We know what is at stake and that so many teams are competitive.
“I've never really talked about it, I'd just go training every week, go to the gym, do what we are asked to do by keep focusing on each day as they come.”
It is a policy that has served Maher well during the past year. The list of honours is lengthy – All Ireland, Munster, a County SHC with Sarsfields and two Fitzgibbon Cup triumphs with Mary I highlights Maher’s relevance and remarkable rise. A fresh and exciting new chapter is ready to be scripted.