Noel McGrath still hungry for more
By John Harrington
Tipperary’s Noel McGrath, Seamus Callanan, Paudie Maher, Brendan Maher, and Patrick Maher have now won three All-Ireland medals this decade.
It has been said by many in the aftermath of Tipperary’s win over Kilkenny in Sunday’s All-Ireland Hurling Final that because of this they have secured their legacy as Premier County all-time greats.
It’s hard to quibble with that because no other Tipperary hurlers have achieved the same feat (in the one decade) since the 1960s.
It would be wrong though to assume that this generation of Tipperary hurlers will be happy with their lot now and drift quietly towards retirement.
Noel McGrath made it very clear with he picked up his PwC GAA-GPA Hurler of the Month Award for August in Dublin this morning that he feels like he still has a lot more peaks to scale in the coming years.
“I’m not going to say we don’t think about that because it does come into your mind at some stage over the last few days,” said McGrath.
“You always want more. You look at the Kilkenny teams over the last 15 years, they always came back every year and were either winning or very close to winning it. We’ll be the same come next year.
“We’ll enjoy this, you have to enjoy it because you train so hard and you put so much into it. If you don’t enjoy it, what’s the point in doing it.
“When next year comes around and whenever we’re back together. Our heads will turn to 2020 again. That’s just the way it is.
“You want to do as much as you can when you’re playing because when you retire, you can’t do it anymore.
“Someone else is there to do it and you’re just looking back so when you have the chance to train and to play, I’ll take as many more as I’m going to be given and as many that we can work hard for.”
McGrath has been playing senior inter-county hurling with Tipperary for 11 seasons now but is still just 28 years of age and has arguably just produced his best championship campaign yet in the blue and gold.
His switch to midfield this year was a master-stroke because his ability to read the play and create scoring opportunities for others with the vision and weight of his deliveries brought a new dimension to Tipperary’s play.
His performance in the All-Ireland Final was the best of the lot. The game seemed to orbit around him and by the end of it he had made an incredible 28 plays.
“You’re there Friday night, Saturday night and you’re thinking ‘what am I going to do Sunday to help the team?’”, said McGrath.
“You want to be the one that’s doing the best you can, you want to be part of the 15 players on the team with everyone doing the same thing and the right thing.
“When it came to Sunday then, everywhere I turned, the ball just happened to be there, whether that’s luck or what it is, I don’t know.
“There’s days there where you turn and everywhere you’re running you can’t get near the ball. On Sunday, it just happened to be that I got on a lot of ball. Obviously a lot of ball was passed out to me from boys in the backs and passed on from some of the defenders.
“I don’t know at any time did I think I was on a lot of ball, you’re just trying to do what you can when you get it and as I said, when I was putting it into the forwards, the boys were winning it in there.
“You don’t have time to think during the game because if you do, there’ll be a lad gone by you or the ball will be gone from you so it was only afterwards when it was mentioned inside in the dressing room that I realised how much I had been on it.”
This is the first All-Ireland medal he has won with both of his brothers – John and Brian – on the panel too, and he admits that makes this one ‘extra-special’.
The McGraths are a very tight-knit family with a shared passion for Gaelic Games, so it wasn’t a surprise to see Noel make a bee-line for his parents Pat and Mary shortly after the Liam MacCarthy Cup was presented to the Tipperary team.
“I just spotted them on the way down [after lifting the cup], they were down the front.
“There was people down there from Loughmore-Castleiney from different parts of Tipp. It’s nice to meet them so soon afterwards and having your parents there.
“The sister was down as well. It’s nice to meet them all. They’re special moments like. They’re ones that you always dream of. To have them become reality is great.
“Like most GAA players around the country, when you’re young, you’re depending on them to get you to training, to get you to matches.
“In Loughmore, it’s such a small place, there’s no such thing as getting buses and things like that. They had to get you everywhere.
“There was times they wondered how we’re going to sort him out this weekend with three boys and a girl to go to different places.
“But we appreciate all that they’ve done. It does help, knowing they’ve been three supporting you and still are.”