Maher: Munster final loss was a blessing in disguise

Maher: Munster final loss was a blessing in disguise
GAA Hurling All-Ireland Senior Champions Tipperary Homecoming, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary 19/8/2019 Ronan Maher celebrates with the Liam McCarthy cup Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Tipperary defender Ronan Maher intends embracing this latest All-Ireland success after failing to do so three years ago. Maher admits complacency prevented him from fully acknowledging the significance of that previous final victory over Kilkenny.

“We didn’t appreciate the one in 2016 so we’re going to appreciate this one now. I just feel like we enjoyed it alright but we thought — well, I thought — it was going to be like that for another few years.

“They’re very tough won and being beaten by a point in 2017 by Galway, then going out in 2018 early in the Championship, it feels like a long time ago. It was a difficult journey but we got there eventually.”

Maher revealed the 12-point Munster final loss to Limerick was discussed in the camp prior to Sunday’s victory over Kilkenny.

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“We said that defeat was a kind of a turning point for us and it drove us on. With the Championship the way it’s gone now, it’s never a clear run. It’s fierce tough. I’d like to think that drove us on for the rest of the year.

“Our energy levels weren’t up to it (in the Munster final) and Limerick cleaned us out. That gave us the kick up the arse we needed. After that we got over Laois and we got over Wexford and on Sunday we got over Kilkenny.”

Meanwhile, first-half goalscorer Niall O’Meara has spoken about the mental burden his injuries took on him last year. This year, hamstring problems upset his Munster championship campaign as he missed three of Tipp’s five provincial matches.

But he recovered to play a key role in this All-Ireland winning campaign. The joy was in sharp contrast to the agony of the 2018 season.

Last year, we played Dublin in a challenge match in January and I punctured my lung and then in league against Kilkenny I did my shoulder. To be honest, mentally it took a toll on me.

“I obviously got back with the club and Eamon O’Shea was involved with us and we had a great year (as Kilruane won a first North Tipperary title in 28 years). It kind of gave me the kick to go again.

“When I got the phone-call from Liam (Sheedy), I couldn’t turn it down. The boys, Brendan (Maher) and Bonner (Maher), told me how good he was and I didn’t really think he was that good until I got involved in the set-up. He’s second to none, top-class.”

In May, O’Meara won a penalty against Cork in Tipperary’s Championship opener before having to leave the field injured in the 63rd minute. He didn’t return until half-time in the Munster final.

“I just got a kind of a cramp in my hamstring,” he explained. “I missed the Waterford game the following week and I was then named to start against Clare but the Friday night before it myself and Brendan Maher jumped up for a high ball and, a pure freak, we ended up on top of each other and I twinged it again.

“We got over the Clare game and I knew we were through to the All-Ireland series so Liam said: ‘Get yourself right for that’. I had that in the back of my head that I had a goal I had to try and get to and that helped me big time. I know Paddy O’Brien played for Tipp but he’s a top-class physio and a top-class man as well and obviously Brendan Murphy (doctor) from Offaly. They know from playing inter-county hurling what it takes and they were just unbelievable.”

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