Maher hoping to hit new heights

Padraic Maher is one of the best hurlers in the country at the moment and has the medal haul to prove it.

Maher hoping to hit  new  heights

With Thurles Sarsfields, he has four county senior titles. With Tipperary, he has three Munster senior medals to go with All-Ireland titles at minor, U21 and senior, all garnished with two All Star awards.

To achieve this has taken years of self-discipline, ferocious training, eating right and doing the right thing.

Tomorrow Paudie, as he’s known to his friends, will line out with Thurles Sars in the Munster club senior hurling final hoping to inspire his team to heights they have never before reached, even in Thurles Sars’ storied history.

Win or lose, next week Padraic will be back where he’s been for several months now. On the dole. Unemployed. Signing on. Not by choice, just a sorry reflection of where this country stands.

“We’ve lost Stephen Lillis and Alan Kennedy to emigration from the team that lost to De La Salle in the 2010 Munster final,” he explains, “but compared to a lot of other teams in Tipperary, we haven’t been hit too badly.

“I was out of work through most of that year [Tipperary won the All-Ireland title] and I’m out of work again now. I went to college for a year, a course on fitness and health, did some summer work in the Cúl camps this year but nothing since.

“I’m hoping that will change, though it’s unlikely anything will come up before Christmas now. But, please God, in January things might open up again.”

Maher could have gone off with Stephen and Alan and would be handed a prime job in New York or Boston in the morning if he threw in his lot with a hurling team out there. He won’t do it though. Hurling is what keeps him in Ireland.

“It is, definitely. I wouldn’t mind going somewhere different at some stage but I’d find it very hard to leave the hurling at the moment.

“I’d prefer to stay at home — hopefully something will turn up, anything! I have my CV up to date, it’s circulating around the place. Something in the fitness and health line would be ideal but I’d have a look at anything.”

Surely someone with his profile would find something? But no, nothing has come up. All of which then, for Padraic Maher, makes tomorrow’s game an even bigger event. Elite sportsman he may be but you can’t make a living from hurling; for now though it’s his life.

He’s had time then to think about De La Salle, plenty of time. Time to reflect especially on what might have been two years ago in that one-point loss, again in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. A game they left behind them?

“In one sense, yes. We hit 17 wides — with the forwards we had — and only lost by a point. But when you look back at it, they deserved to win it in the finish. No point pretending it wasn’t one of our most disappointing days though. It was. The point they got to win it, it was [Eoin] Madigan from the wing. I was coming up behind him but was too late, straight over the bar, a fine score.

“He’s a big man but that’s one thing about De La Salle, they have a lot of big, physical players, very strong. It’s going to be tough again, I know that.”

Not that he’s any shrinking violet himself, you understand, not at a very powerfully built 6’1” and not that he’s conceding anything just yet to De La Salle either.

“I heard they’re better this year but so are we. Look at the players we had then, Aidan McCormack, Mikey O’Brien, Denis Maher — they were only minor that year, while the likes of myself, Pa Bourke and Michael Cahill were all U21.

“We’re all two years older now, that bit more mature.

“I know De La Salle are unbeaten so far in Munster in three campaigns, have all that winning experience, but we have a lot of experience ourselves, came very close a few times. De La Salle only beat us by a point in 2010, Newtown beat us by a point in 2009, but we’ve had a few nice wins too.

“We’ve beaten Kilmallock twice in Kilmallock, beat Sars [Cork] in the semi-final and they were a very good team. Win or lose, there’s only going to be a point or two in it. Hopefully we’re on the right side of it this time.

“It’s a Munster final. Sars have never won one before, not even back in the 60s when it all started and we had those great teams. It’s a great incentive for us and we’re still a young enough team. It would be great to be heading into Christmas knowing you had an All-Ireland club semi-final to prepare for, a great boost for the club.”

It would be great heading into Christmas too knowing you had a job to go to in the New Year, wouldn’t it?

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