Tomorrow, in Thurles, they take on Limerick champions Na Piarsaigh in the Munster club SHC. On Sunday week, however, they also play in the Tipperary senior football final and win or lose in that game, they have already qualified for the Munster club senior football campaign (as opponents Aherlow are a combination side who can’t compete in the province).
It amounts to a fantastic achievement for such a small rural club.
David Kennedy, former Tipperary hurling captain, is now in his 21st adult season with Loughmore and should be one of those most feeling the effects at this stage. Not a bit of it.
“When you’re winning in one, then winning in the other, it’s no problem at all. All you’re doing is going from match to match on the Sunday, one night’s training on the Wednesday.”
Hurling training or football training? “It depends on the game coming up. The Wednesday after the hurling county final we trained football for the county semi-final, then we were back this Wednesday training hurling for Sunday — I hadn’t picked up a hurley for ten days! Next Wednesday we’ll be back football training, getting ready for the football final. Hopefully we’ll be back training hurling the week after that, depending on what happens on Sunday, and then it will be back to football again, getting ready for the winners of Dr Crokes and Castlehaven. If it’s Crokes that game will be in Killarney — I’d say the Gooch is quaking in his boots at the prospect!
“It’s every week but it’s nice to get that break, to go from one to the other. If you’re constantly playing one it could become a drag.”
There are other advantages too, reckons Kennedy. “Much that you do in football benefits the hurling, and vice versa. In hurling, when we’re playing well we tend to keep the ball, hold possession, short-passing from one to another — that’s from playing football. In football we’re getting tackled far more often, it can be hard going — it blends from one to another with different skills being picked up that help the other code.
“It’s all about momentum as well, when things are going well you build up momentum, and things ARE going well.”
As with so many smaller clubs there is a massive crossover between the codes, most players — including the former county star — doing double duty. “In the semi-final against Clonmel 12 of the hurlers started and two more came on, so we finished with 14 of those who had played in the hurling final. The positions tend to be the same, or close to it — if you’re a back in the hurling, you’re a back in the football.”
It helps too that so many of the team are from the one family, six McGraths, though they’re not all brothers. “It comes down to a twist of fate — Michael McGrath was the grandfather, passed away a few years ago. If he had built his house a couple of fields away from where he did it would have been in Drom & Inch parish and we wouldn’t be having this conversation.
“When you saw them all together at the funeral it hit you — my God, there’s a lot of these McGraths! I get confused myself at times as to who’s who — Pat is the father of Noel and John; Mikey is Kieran and Aidan’s dad; Tom is Liam’s father. Then there’s a Mossy McGrath, Tomás, his father is Pat but he’s not a brother of the others — they’re cousins.”
Happily for Loughmore-Castleiney though, Michael did settle in that parish; even more happily, the sporting genes have remained strong, in the McGraths and in several other traditional GAA families in the club.
Makes for an interesting match-up tomorrow, the small rural club against the coming Limerick city powerhouse. It would take a brave man to call a winner!