New season brings a new challenge for Noel McGrath

Noel McGrath has no preference as to where he plays on the Tipperary team.
Eamonn Wynne

Eamonn Wynne

Another year, another hurling championship and for Tipperary’s it’s a chance to make a fresh start, with the bitter memories of last year’s heavy defeat by Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final fading into the background.

That fresh start begins with Sunday’s Munster quarter-final against Limerick, a match that can’t come quickly enough for Noel McGrath.

“Naturally enough we were all gutted and disappointed after last year’s All-Ireland semi-final. It was a huge defeat and something that was hard to take. We did get a lot of stick, some of it fair and some unfair but that’s just the territory you’re in. People have a right to their opinion, you just have to get on with it.

This is a new year with new challenges ahead, we’ve put that behind us and the Limerick match is one we’ve been looking at since January, since we came back training.

You’re going to get criticised and you’re going to get praised, you have to take both hand in hand. If you’re criticised you have to react in a positive way and get on with it. You’re going to be criticised no matter what. You’ll get praised as well at times. These things happen, that’s sport, that’s life. You just have to continue and play the best that you can.

We’ve a big challenge going to Limerick. They had their bad times 3 or 4 years ago but since then they’ve everything in order. Last year we barely got out of Thurles with a win. They’ll have a big crowd behind them and we’ll have to be at the top of our game to beat them.

Limerick beat Kilkenny in a challenge a few weeks ago so their preparation is also going well, they’ve put in a lot of work and are putting up big scores. You just have to get yourself right on the day as well and hope that you’ll be at your best to perform”.

Tipp’s last competitive game was the League Final against Kilkenny, a match that saw the 22 year-old Loughmore player spend a lot of time plying his trade from midfield. “Any day you’re given the jersey you just have to do the best you can. Between midfield and the half forward line is where I’ve played most of my hurling for the last few years. I don’t know if you could go back any further than that, I haven’t been back there for a while, it takes a bit of getting used to back there. You take any jersey you get and do the best you can.

We were disappointed naturally enough that we didn’t get the win (against Kilkenny last month). We went down there to win because not many of us have league medals but you have to take some positives from it as well. We scored 20 points, which is a big score to put up against Kilkenny, and the game gave a few lads a championship feeling. In other years coming into the championship you wouldn’t have played a match as big but that was, with a big crowd.

We performed well, had a few chances we could have taken and we might have got the win. We’ve moved on, we’ve been training well for the last few weeks and we’re just looking forward to the Limerick match.

Over the last few years Kilkenny, who’ve won the All-Ireland the most times, have gone the direct route most of the time. I think that’s the way every team has to aim, to try and win all your matches and be as successful as you can. The Munster Championship is still held in high regard by all the Tipp players and I’m sure every other county would love to win Munster as well”.

The time when McGrath was one of the novices on the panel has passed, with other younger players since joining the fray.

“Any new players coming into the panel bring something different and something new. It’s a stepping stone for them and players such as Jason Forde and Tomas Hamill have done very well so far. They’re still young and developing, but if they were asked to play a part they’d be well able when it comes to the championship”.