Noel McGrath: 'It's an opportunity for someone else'
By John Harrington
Noel McGrath admits that the absence of Seamus Callanan from the Tipperary team for Sunday’s Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Final against Galway is a big loss for the Premier County.
But he’s also hopeful that Tipp have the strength in depth to cope and that whoever replaces him in the team will make the most of the opportunity.
“Look, the whole country knows that he'll be a loss for us because he's such a great player and his performance levels have been so high for the last number of years,” says McGrath. “He'd be a loss for any team in the country.
“But it is what it is. I suppose there's a panel of players there for a reason. If someone can't play then someone else steps in, and that's what will happen on Sunday.
“It's an opportunity for someone else to put their hand up and show that they can perform on as a big a stage as there is at this stage of the year, an Allianz League Final.
“It's a loss and we're disappointed to be missing him, but for someone else it's an opportunity to put on a Tipperary jersey and perform.”
Tipperary should cope without Callanan if McGrath and his younger sibling John can repeat the heroics they produced against Wexford last Sunday when they both hit 2-2 from play.
His brother has now scored 10 goals in his last nine games for Tipperary and is arguably the best young forward in the country.
The McGraths tend to be a pretty laid-back bunch, and Noel doesn’t expect his younger brother’s achievements go to his head any time soon.
“Yeah he's fairly relaxed about it and around home there would be no real pressure put on us,” he says.
“The three of us (youngest brother Brian captained the All-Ireland winning Tipperary minor team last year) would be fairly relaxed around home coming up to matches whether it's for the club or county. He's doing fairly well at the moment and he's one of the players that have been added over the last year or two that have brought a bit more.
“We'll be hoping it can continue and he knows himself he needs to keep on top of his performances because there's other lads there that are trying to get in.
“With the set-up we have with Tipp at the moment nobody can take anything for granted because, in fairness to the management team, if lads aren't performing and doing their stuff you won't get a chance.
“Flip that around and if you are performing and doing well in training you get that opportunity. That keeps everyone on their toes and moving. The longer that keeps going the healthier it is for everyone.”
The recent return to the panel of Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher after his six month tour of duty with the Irish army in Syria has only intensified the competition within the Tipperary panel.
“He's always in good shape, he always minds himself very well, and he's after coming back in good shape again,” says McGrath.
“It's great to have him back and we're looking forward to getting him back into the pitch whenever the lads want him back in around the team or the panel. He was training away there all the time.
“I know Bonner since 2007, we first played together as minors and we've been on teams together coming up since then.
“He brings a great energy and we all know the that work he does on the field. He brings other players with him and he's just a good team player that's out to do good for the team and for everybody else. It's very good to have him back.”
This is McGrath’s ninth year in the Tipperary senior hurling panel but he’s never won an Allianz Hurling League medal.
He’s relishing the opportunity to do so on Sunday, but is expecting an almighty battle from Galway.
“They put up a big score at the weekend too,” says McGrath. “We all know the great players that they have who can hurt you if they're given the chance.
“Look, it's going to be another ding-dong battle. The last few years it's been a puck of the ball one way or the other and there's been a draw thrown into the middle of it.
“It's where you want to be, you want to be laying against and testing yourself against the best teams that are out there and Galway are certainly one of them.
“It's great to be involved in these big matches, we're really looking forward to it."