Stapleton: "As good a feeling as you could have in sport"

Stapleton: 'As good a feeling as you could have in sport'
Paddy Stapleton poses for a portrait at Borris-Ileigh’s press night. Stapleton doesn’t think ‘a lid needs to be kept on’ the players in the build-up to Sunday’s All-Ireland Club SHC final against Ballyhale Shamrocks. Picture: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile.

Borris-Ileigh won’t lack support this weekend in the All-Ireland club final if their semi-final is anything to go by. Defender Paddy Stapleton noted the presence of members of other Tipperary clubs at their win over St Thomas’ in Limerick.

“I don't know if it is strange or not. I think we feel it all, definitely. We definitely feel it. I even looked up into the crowd and I saw an awful lot of - obviously I saw all of the maroon and white, but I could see a load of blue and gold as well with people, obviously, wearing their (Tipperary) jackets and their hats.

“So, you could sense it. I think it's lovely. It's a compliment to ourselves. We're a parish that people have to drive through between Thurles and Nenagh.”

Stapleton thinks people are responding to the Borris attitude: “People probably like that there are not too many gimmicks involved. We have a couple of county players, but I just think that we are a fierce hard-working team.

“And I think that people identify with that; there is not too much fancy stuff. We just get the job done. It's a simple way of playing and I think people like that.

"And, you wouldn't see us getting too carried away - personality-wise I would say that a lot of the lads would be known around the place and it would be known that they would be fairly everyday fellas.”

The big-game experience Stapleton, Brendan Maher and Dan McCormack have with Tipperary is central to the Borris preparations this week.

“I think Brendan (Maher) mentioned it the other day: to be themselves and to express themselves and I think that has helped because we do that ourselves.

Dan, Brendan and myself and whoever has played, even a couple of minors, I think that's important to keep your own personality. Sometimes the more you keep a lid on things the more lads get tense and are wondering, ‘oh God, is this such a special day’.

“But I feel like that it should be treated the very same as we have been treating games for the whole year. What's the point in not (doing that)? What am I going to say to the lads that is going to make them play differently or better. They know it's an important game, but we are just going to look at it the very same.

“And I trust them to go out and do what they have done, that's all. I express themselves the very same as they have done all year and, hopefully, that's good enough to win.”

There’s a buzz around the village but Stapleton doesn’t think “a lid needs to be kept on” the players: they have a routine they believe in.

“Johnny (Kelly) and the management trust us to be ourselves, relax and not get carried away. During the county (championship) we were playing a lot of it week on week and then there were two weeks to the final - we have a routine and we kind of know the crack.

“We come back in and recover and then do a bit of work come the weekend, then we taper and then we get sharp for the weekend.

"We have done the routine already and I think we’re comfortable preparing that way rather than for the semi-final, which was five weeks. I'd say that we were a little bit slow (against St Thomas') during the first five or ten minutes.”

He’s happy not to have to wait until St Patrick’s Day (“If you had to wait another month - I don't know how the other teams used to be doing that”) to play the final. Which brings us to Ballyhale Shamrocks.

“They’re a very, very good team. Obviously they are going for two-in-a-row now and I think the last day (against Slaughtneil) was the first day that they were really, since their county championship, that they were really put to the pin of their collars. But they are a very, very good team.

“Similarly , we knew that St Thomas' were a very, very good team. I was asked an awful lot before that about how we’d deal with their players. You know that you have to do your homework and you know that they have good players, but if you don't play your own game on the day . . .

“I'd say a lot of people who have played sport have been on a team where you have tried to mind all of the star players on different teams and in my experience that is definitely the hardest thing to do. You just end up chasing shadows.

“We have to do our homework, but go out there and play as good as we can play.

And if that's good enough on the day, with the hunger and the desire that we have, we’re able to get good scores, we got a good score the last day - yeah, they’re a great team, but we are looking forward to it.

So is the locality.

“It's just class,” he says. “It's just unreal. It's as good a feeling as you could have playing sport, apart from that it coming so quick.

“People are very excited, but compared to Tipp, when it is all over the place - everywhere you drive there are flags all over the place - it's nice, it's very condensed.

“I just see it as a continuation of what we were doing. It's just that the county final was a big thing, the Munster final was a big thing and this is the same thing. It's great and it's so exciting, but it's nothing that is too overpowering.”

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