Despite all the accolades, this medal may mean more to Brendan Maher

Despite all the accolades, this medal may mean more to Brendan Maher
Brendan Maher of Borris-Ileigh celebrates after the Tipperary SHC final as Borris-Ileigh defeated Kiladangan at Semple Stadium. Picture: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

There is something wonderful about a senior county final.

Good weather day, bad weather day, any type of day. The whole occasion is so intimate.

Every club brings its own traditions. You wouldn’t call them ‘cocksure’ but Borris- Ileigh come to Semple Stadium right on front foot. When one of their lads arrived out and fell in behind the Moycarkey Pipe Band, the famous fighting cock in his arms, this massive cheer went up.

Where would you get it? I love that sort of stuff.

Borris-Ileigh gave decent value for yesterday’s three point win over Kiladanagan.

Although it was only their seventh senior title, and their first one since 1986, the club is a powerhouse. Brendan Maher and Dan McCormack are there with Tipperary at the moment, but the parish has produced so many quality hurlers over the years.

I believe a lot of their traditions go back to the late 1940s and early 1950s. Those teams were their breakthrough men. Seán Kenny, who also captained Tipp to win the All Ireland, was supposedly a supreme character as well as a fantastic hurler. There is this likeability factor with Borris-Ileigh hurling. Yesterday we saw 18-year-old flyer, James ‘JD’ Devanney, grandson of the great Liam Devanney, shoot 1-4 from play.

Kiladangan are about making a tradition. Their day should not be far away, the day of a first senior title.

Disappointed also to lose the intermediate final to Seán Treacy’s, of course, but they are building up genuine strength in depth.

Borris-Ileigh, I just felt, had that edge. But they still needed two remarkable saves from James McCormack. One came in the first minute. The other was from a penalty at a crucial moment.

Both saves, a right-handed ’keeper diving to his right side, were technically difficult.

James, along with his three brothers, can be proud of the McCormacks’ contribution.

Paddy Stapleton, after an awful year for his family, really held the fort at full back.

On the day, Borris-Ileigh were more direct in style, more of a November 3rd team.

Kiladangan were more an August 3rd team, a top of the ground outfit. On a sticky pitch, the short game is hard to keep going over the whole hour.

I remember Fergal Hayes tearing out of defence for Kiladangan, and going to offload to Joe Gallagher in midfield. The ball went to ground and Gallagher was penalised for a pick up.

Kevin Maher slotted the Borris-Ileigh free. A bit like England in the Rugby World Cup final, Kiladangan did not make key balls stick.

Those moments added up to a three-point victory. Borris-Ileigh were that bit cuter, mostly avoiding frills.

I was watching Brendan Maher at the final whistle. He was like a man possessed. The wins of the past can be a weight as well as a pride.

Ger Loughnane talked in his autobiography about the fierce pressure on county players with their club. Ger finally won, in 1988, a senior final with Feakle in his last outing. Until your club grabs the big one, there are always knockers to whisper: ‘Why does he only do it for the county?’

I bet Brendan could relate to Ger’s story. He has been magnificent with Tipperary for ten years and more. He came back from cruciate injury last year, right back to his best. He has won everything in the game but this medal probably means as much to him, and maybe more, as anything before.

No one cared in Semple Stadium about provincial games in Munster and Leinster.

But probably the All-Ireland championship cracked open a bit. People were mad to see Cuala and Ballyhale Shamrocks in a Leinster final, but St Mullins beat Cuala by a point.

I know all about them from my recent stint with Kilmacud Crokes. We were well off their standard in this year’s Dublin quarter-final. The same day, Con O’Callaghan was virtually unmarkable. When he goes well, Cuala fly it altogether.

But when Con is not there… he went off injured early in the Dublin final against St Brigid’s. Cuala, as overwhelming favourites, made awful heavy weather of the time left.

Opponents draw off Con’s absence. I believe he came on for the last 20 minutes against St Mullins, but the game had already slipped too much.

Now, in a fortnight’s time, we’ll see a massive clash between Ballyhale Shamrocks and St Martin’s, the Wexford champions. St Mullins and Rathdowney-Errill, who hammered St Rynagh’s, are on the other side.

Down in Munster, Ballygunner saw off Sixmilebridge in serious terms, 12 point margin at the finish. This result must have opened Brian Lohan’s eyes. The new Clare manager got reminded there will be no quick fixes for the county team in 2020.

Glen Rovers and Borris-Ileigh is one Munster semi-final. Ballygunner move on to Patrickswell, which should be a cracker.

Six in a row local winners, the Waterford champions got reasonably near Ballyhale Shamrocks last February. Maybe they deserve more credit. But Patrickswell are watching and waiting, and not one bit fussed.

Borris-Ileigh will enjoy a rare few days of celebration. And rightly so. 33 years is a long time to be off top table.

There will be all sorts of creatures and wildfowl around the village. And good luck to them all. I’ve always felt an affinity between the sort of place Clarecastle is and what I know of Borrisoleigh.

But they could, if settled back down in time for Glen Rovers, find themselves in a Munster final almost unbeknownst to themselves.

Once there, they would not feel out of place. Imokilly, if allowed on from winning out Cork, would have fancied themselves for a right say. So Glen Rovers are not to be discounted.

The Glen ended up with time to get the heads back together after the disappointment of losing again. But we still don’t know whether their hearts are really in it, representing Cork without having won in Cork. We do know Borris-Ileigh are back where they feel they belong.

Talented personnel aside, any club’s sharpest weapon is feeling undaunted by the big occasion.

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