A seventh All-Ireland final game and for a seventh time it’s Kilkenny - Noel McGrath can’t but associate one with the other.
“Any day you are in an All-Ireland final, you play anybody,” he says.
“Being there means you have a chance to win. I don’t know is there much more you can say about Kilkenny about how good they have been over the last 15 years. They cause every other team to raise the bar.”
But it should be a first final in which McGrath is deployed in midfield. For Liam Sheedy in 2009 and ’10 he wore 13 and played there. For Declan Ryan in ’11, he was centre-forward and wore the corresponding number on his back. It was back to 13 in for the ’14 games but he started in the left-corner and in the right for the replay before taking the number 12 and beginning on that left wing in the ’16
If this summer is a true indicator, he’ll don the number eight geansaí on Sunday and play i lár na páirce. “I think it happened a bit more naturally than I expected myself,” the 28-year-old says of his new role this year.
“Lucky enough, midfield seems to suit me so far but you have to work on it everyday. It’s an area of the field where there is a lot of action and if you are not on your game there is somebody out there that is going to be better than you. I played a lot of my hurling there at under-age with Tipperary at minor and with Loughmore-Castleiney and with the school so it is nothing new to me.”
McGrath has been in mean Championship form other than the Munster final when he was called ashore for Robert Byrne in the 54th minute.
He was quickly over that disappointment, the team’s performance and defeat. “To be honest, you just move on from it and look at your own game. I think any day that you are taken off, you know more than anybody else that you haven’t played well.
“You look at yourself and just put the head down and learn from the mistakes. Games change from day to day even from half to half and you just go again.”
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That’s what he will be telling his brother John who would have feared he cost Tipperary an All-Ireland final place when he was sent off for a second yellow card against Wexford. “It is not a nice place to be in but is part and parcel of sport so we were all very happy at the end and I’m sure he was as well to get another opportunity.”
A lot of McGrath’s philosophical attitude was derived from his health scare four years ago when he was laid low with testicular cancer. “I always love playing hurling whether it is with my club Loughmore Castleiney or with Tipperary but I suppose after that it probably changed a small bit.
“I am probably a little bit more carefree as regards - you’re disappointed after you lose and happy when you win – either way it has to be measured as well. It probably changed it a small bit for me but at the same time the desire and ambition is the same.
“You win as much as you can while you can. We have been knocking at the door since I’ve started. We’ve had good days, we’ve had bad days.
You treasure the good ones and get over the bad ones and go again and we are looking forward to another big day.”