Jerome Cahill is enjoying the journey
By John Harrington
Jerome Cahill knows he’s in a very privileged position.
On Sunday he was a member of the Tipperary match-day panel that defeated Kilkenny in the All-Ireland SHC Final.
This Saturday he has the opportunity to achieve a unique double by helping the Tipperary U-20s to victory in their All-Ireland Final against Cork.
For Cahill, though, this year has been as much about the journey as the destination.
He counts himself hugely fortune to share a dressing-room with a generation of Tipperary players who have now won three All-Ireland titles and will long be remembered as some of the greatest the county has ever produced.
“I know it's very cliched, but they do really take you under their wing,” said Cahill. “They've been sound to each and every one of the lads that have stepped up from the 21s last year.
“There was 10 of us I think. They really are like big brothers in a way. You just learn a lot from the level of preparation they put in. The likes of Brendan Maher, the way he came back from his cruciate injury there this year.
“Even seeing the way Bonner reacted to doing his knee this year already, he's so motivated to come back. It's just such a learning curve. It motivates you then to be the best you can be on any given day. It's really enjoyable.
“It's been a long ten months of preparation since November. But you really do enjoy the journey, and especially when you're with lads like that.
“I think the whole panel of 40 really, they're top class individuals more so than players. They're real down to earth boys. They make going to training every night that bit easier.”
Training and playing alongside generational talents like Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath, Paudie Maher, and Seamus Callanan has accelerated Cahill’s development as a hurler.
But so has working with managers and coaches of the very highest calibre with both the county senior and U-20 teams.
Liam Sheedy’s coaching ticket of Eamon O’Shea, Tommy Dunne, and Darragh Egan is as good as you’ll get, and the double-act of Liam Cahill and Michael Bevans that have managed Cahill at minor and now U-20 level is a brilliant combination too.
“They’re very similar in lots of ways, but they have two different styles,” said Cahill when asked to compare Liam Sheedy and Liam Cahill.
“Every manager likes to put their stamp on any team. I've learned so much from Liam Cahill and this year from Liam Sheedy. It's just the backroom team we have, it's unreal really. The likes of Darragh Egan there, and Eamon O'Shea and Tommy Dunne as well, All-Ireland winning captain.
“I've been under the guidance of Liam and Mikey now (with the U-20s and minors) and TJ Ryan and Sean Corbett for four years.
“Every year they bring something fresh. I suppose we are developing and that is part of their plan as well, that we are only developing. I think Mikey Bevans keeps it so simple, and everything the boys say, we really buy into what their game plan is and the way they approach things.
“I think the players can sense the honesty and genuine approach of Liam and Mikey. Just to get a good response from that. There's no real secret.”
10 players from last year’s All-Ireland U-21 winning team were members of this year’s Tipperary senior panel this year with three of them – Ger Browne, Jake Morris, and Mark Kehoe – scoring points in Sunday’s Final after coming on as subs.
Cahill is one of three members of this year’s U-20 panel who are also senior panellists along with Morris and Paddy Cadell.
Some of Tipperary’s best players might be in the twilight of their careers, but it certainly looks like the Premier County has future-proofed by bringing through another generation of really talented players at a time when new blood was badly needed.
“I wouldn't say future-proof, but the foundation is there,” said Cahill. “There's always one eye on the future.
“Even with our 21s last year, we had guys on the extended panel who are playing a big role for our 20s this year. So I think that's just the way it works in counties like Tipperary and Kilkenny.
“You always have to have something in the pipeline for what's down the line. Yeah, the backroom team at the moment, it's an unreal backroom team. We're delighted to have each and every one of them, they're putting in a serious effort.
“You know yourselves the commitment of intercounty coaches these days are just probably like a fulltime job. We're just so grateful to have the boys. We're just happy to be under their guidance.”
Winning the All-Ireland U-20 title a week after winning the senior one would be an incredible achievement for Tipperary hurling but Cahill knows Saturday’s Final against Cork will be a seriously tough test.
Cork would love nothing more than to lower Tipp’s colours having lost to them in last year’s All-Ireland U-21 Final and this year’s Munster U-20 Final in fairly heart-breaking fashion on both occasions.
“Yeah exactly,” said Cahill. “There'll be no lack of motivation for the Cork boys, they don't call them the Rebel County for nothing.
“The Rebel blood is in them I suppose. They've bounced back from last year really well, and gave us lots of it.
“It was a toss of a coin in the Munster final. So we're expecting the same again."