Tipp captain Padraic Maher wants to lead by example
By John Harrington
Padraic Maher’s first year as Tipperary hurling team captain has tested him mentally.
His first time to lead the team out for a national final ended with a spanking at the hands of Galway in the Allianz League Final, and then his first championship match as team skipper also ended in defeat, this time to Cork.
Not surprisingly, the Thurles Sarsfields club-man did a lot of soul-searching after both defeats.
“When you have experienced a defeat you are kind of looking at yourself and thinking, is there anything else I can do for the group or it there anything I am not going for the group?” admits Maher.
“It does hit you a bit more but at the end of the day I can’t do anymore than the other players on the team or on the panel.
“I can only do what I can do best and that is train as hard as I can and bring my best performance for the team during the championship games and these games in particular are very important. That is the best way I can help the team is lead by example in that way.
“We didn’t really experience too many defeats during the league. It was only after the Galway game where you start thinking was there anything I could have done differently to help the lads, or say something different at half time.
“At the end of the day you say what you want leading into a game to the players or at half time, but it is all about what you do on the field. Players will tell you that themselves, it is about your actions and not necessarily your words.”
Maher certainly led with his actions against Clare in the All-Ireland SHC Quarter-Final by containing the previously rampant Peter Duggan after moving on to him late in the game.
The moment when he claimed a spectacular catch above Duggan and then won a free that Brendan Maher nailed from long-distance in the dying minutes was one of the key sequences in the match.
It was far from a perfect Tipperary performance though, and the reigning champions will go into Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final against Galway as underdogs.
But in some ways this game couldn’t be better set-up for Tipperary. That defeat to Galway in the League Final means they’ll have all the motivation they could possibly need going into the game.
“We want to prove that we are never as poor as we were that day,” admits Maher. “It’s going to be massive game for us and the thing about it is that you have to have massive motivation going into game like thing because the last two years have shown that there is nothing between Tipp and Galway when it comes to championship.
“You have to have your head screwed on and everyone has to be mentally right because if you are not you are going to get caught.”
Tipperary were completely out-worked by Galway in that League Final defeat and also struggled to match Cork’s intensity in the Munster SHC Quarter-Final.
They addressed those failings against Clare though and Maher admits their renewed willingness to work hard all over the field and put in tackles is a source of encouragement head of the showdown with Galway.
“You would notice it,” he said. “It was one massive area we were missing in the Galway game in the league final, and a lot of the Cork game too, it was very open, loose kind of game. We knew we had to get back to basics and get our workrate and we know if we hit them points on the head it will take a fair team to beat us.
“We are working on that area and it is what Mick (Ryan) demands of us, ever since he came in at the start of 2016, he wanted us to give our all and work as hard as we can, and out hurling would take of itself after that.
“The last two years have shown it. We can’t come out of the All Ireland semi-final last year and say we played all that well. It was a workmanlike performance that got us through and it could have gone either way. The same the year before, we didn’t play well against them either but there was only a point in it.
“We know nothing else is going to get us through but to work our asses off against Galway because they are the kind of team that do the same, they have a really strong work ethic within the group at the moment, you can see that in the games they played so we have to match it and beat it if we can at all.”