John McGrath is ready for action
By Cian O’Connell
John McGrath is ready for action. Whether it brings the delights of 2016 or the disappointment of 2017 McGrath will find some joy in the journey.
That matters deeply as Tipperary prepare for another interesting campaign loaded with matches. Competitive games are set to arrive thick and fast for Loughmore-Castleiney clubman McGrath, a key figure in the Electric Ireland Fitzgibbon Cup for UL, and in Tipperary’s fabled blue and gold.
A revamped All Ireland Hurling Championship carries intrigue with McGrath relishing the summer challenges which await. “Yeah, I suppose it is interesting the change going from playing maybe once every three or four weeks to playing four weeks in a row,” McGrath admits.
“You are going to need a strong panel, if you pick up an injury you could easily miss the next three games or whatever it is. It is going to be hugely important to get everyone fit.
“I suppose freshness is a big one too, that you can get back up to 100 per cent the following week. It is hard to judge it until we go through it and test it to see what it is like. It is going to be a new challenge and I think lads are looking forward to seeing what it is all going to be like.”
Throughout the past number of years Tipperary have been forced to deal with a string of retirements, but McGrath is encouraged about the future.
“Definitely, we have lost a couple of lads since I joined the panel three years ago,” McGrath states when asked about the importance of unearthing new players capable of operating at the highest level.
“There is two or three gone every year and there is probably a lot of lads coming in from our minor team in 2012. They are really starting to get themselves into a position to be playing now. Even a couple of the young lads are in off the 2016 minor team, Mark Keogh, Cian D'arcy, a couple of lads like this.
“The bit of freshness they are going to bring is going to drive everyone. With the games coming thick and fast, it isn't going to be 20 lads anymore, you are going to need 24 or 25 guys throughout the Championship, at least, if not more.”
Older brother Noel remains an influential figure for Tipperary, while younger sibling, Brian, an All Ireland minor winning captain in 2016 could make the breakthrough soon too.
“He is with the Under 21s, they are playing a couple of challenge games at the moment. Yeah, I suppose that (2016) was a brilliant year the way it worked out with the minors and seniors winning and Brian captaining the minors on the day.
“He is going well, hopefully he will get into the senior panel in the next year or two. I suppose you have to show it at Under 21 level first to earn the call up.
“It is a really good stepping stone between the Under 21 and even the Fitzgibbon, they are the next two down from the senior. If you do well there you will get your opportunity at senior then.”
Injuries bothered McGrath early in his senior career, but the last two campaigns illustrated his finishing ability.
“I suppose I came in first in '15 and I got a couple of League games and I was happy enough with how I was going,” McGrath recalls.
“I probably just hadn't adjusted to the level of training and physicality that is involved. My body probably just wasn't ready or able for it, but I suppose since then through different strength and conditioning and working with physios it has been easier to get myself right.
“I know my body better and what I can and can't do. It has really benefited me, I have played the last 10 Championship games in a row which two or three years ago, even more, which just wouldn't have happened.”
McGrath wants to deliver once more for Tipperary in 2018, a busy spring and summer beckons.