Tipperary’s defeat by Cork in the National League semi-final was a wake-up call, according to defender Padraic Maher.
“We’re coming in off the back of an up and down league, a topsy-turvy campaign. We’re only taking it one step at a time and the minute we were beaten by Cork in the league semi-final we were focusing on Limerick. We’re going to keep the heads down now, we’ve a lot of work done and we’ll see what happens”, he said as the team prepares for Sunday’s Munster Senior Hurling quarter-final at Semple Stadium.
He said that Tipp were “flat” against Cork and it was just one of those days, he didn’t know what was wrong with them. “We learned from that defeat and that what’s the league was there for, to learn from it. We got to use a lot of players during the league and everybody got a chance.
We didn’t manage to step it up a gear at all (against Cork). It was disappointing and frustrating. Since then we’ve been working hard in training at Dr. Morris Park and in the gym, which is all geared towards Sunday.
The championship is a different story and that’s what we’ve been gearing ourselves towards since the start of the year, and we’re looking forward to it.”
The Thurles Sarsfields player is aware of the pitfalls that the championship can bring, especially so early in the season. “If you lose your first game you’re under fierce pressure to get back in. We’ve been there before, two years ago after the defeat by Cork, so we want to go the direct route through the Munster championship”.
Maher, the vice-captain, believes that manager Declan Ryan and his selectors will have a headache trying to settle on their best fifteen for the championship.
“We have Lar (Corbett) back as well as a fully-fit Eoin Kelly, and Seamus Callanan and Bonnar Maher returning from injury. Buggy O’Meara was one of our best forwards in the league and you have Shane Bourke as well, so there’s great competition in the forward line”.
Much of the talk surrounding the camp in the last fortnight has been all about Lar Corbett - “it’s great to have him back, he’s one of the top hurlers in the country and we’ll take him back”.
A clubmate and friend of Corbett’s, Padraic Maher says he didn’t talk to him too much about hurling during his absence from the panel; “I didn’t want to wreck his head, there were enough of people doing that. He came into training on Tuesday night and it was as if he had never been away. But he’ll have to fight for his jersey the same as everyone else and he won’t get it back too easily. We’ll have to give him a few weeks to get his fitness back”.
Some observers put Tipp’s lack of goals during the league down to Corbett’s absence but according to Padraic “we weren’t even creating chances to give the lads a chance to score goals”.
Paul Curran’s return from injury means that Maher is likely to be restored to his favourite position in the half-back line. He filled in at full-back in their last competitive game, against Cork, and he was happy to do so. “I’d rather play out the field, that’s well known at this stage but you do what you have to do for the team. Declan asked me to do a job there and I was happy enough to do it”.
This is the first time that he’ll face Limerick in the Munster championship and he’s wary of the threat they pose.
“Going back over the years Tipp have never beaten Limerick that easily and this year they’re coming into the championship under the radar, kind of like ourselves. There’s not much talk about either team, so it has the makings of a great game in Thurles”.