Tipp host Waterford at Semple Stadium this evening (7.30) in the Electric Ireland Munster MHC semi-final but the 1999 National Hurling League medallist concedes that his players are up against it.
Waterford beat last year’s provincial champions and All-Ireland semi-finalists Clare in Ennis in the first round.
And over the last three seasons, neither Clare nor Waterford have lost to Cork, Tipperary, Limerick or Kerry in the Munster minor championship.
Tipp have not beaten Waterford in the Munster minor championship since 2003 and the visiting Déise, champions in 2009, have also contested the last two Munster finals — losing to Clare on both occasions.
Waterford travel with four members of the victorious Coláiste na nDéise Harty Cup-winning team in their starting line-up — namely Tom Devine, Colin Dunford, Michael Harney and Kieran Power.
But Tipp have plenty of class in their ranks too and Steven O’Brien (Ballina), Jack Peters (Kilruane MacDonaghs) and Tadhg Gallagher (Kildangan) are three members of the Nenagh CBS team beaten by Coláiste na nDéise but later crowned All-Ireland Colleges champions.
Tipp hammered Kerry 6-21 to 0-11 in a one-sided quarter-final and Maher said: “We’ve learned a lot in recent challenge matches. They may not be championship games and you take them with a pinch of salt but the lads displayed a fantastic attitude and the application they’ve given me and the management team over the last six to nine months has been second to none. And we’re a good team too.”
Maher also revealed an excellent working relationship with David Power — manager of the minor footballers preparing for the Munster final showdown with Kerry on July 8.
He said: “Myself and David set out a plan at the beginning of the year. Without having a plan, it could have become a bit messy. Everything is agreed well in advance.
“The dual players are winners — All-Ireland champions and hoping to win a second successive Munster title. We let them off — they’re fantastic guys but you’d always have that little concern about whether they’re doing enough hurling. Ultimately, we’ll find that out against Waterford.”
Tipp will play either Clare or Limerick in the final on July 15.
TIPPERARY (MHC v Waterford): P Maher; R Maher, M Breen, J Peters; D Fitzelle, T Hamill, B Heffernan; B Maher, T Gallagher; J McGrath, J Shelly, S O’Brien; S Cahill, M McCarthy, S Ryan.
WATERFORD (MHC v Tipperary): S Barry; K Bennett, T Bourke, S Bennett; D O’Brien, S McNulty, K Power; T Devine, C Dunford; DJ Foran, A Gleeson, M Harney; S Bennett, B Phelan, D Flynn.