Tipperary champions Thurles Sarsfields step back inside the whitewash for a sixth successive weekend, a seventh for their inter-county quintet.
For Cratloe, the schedule has been far more demanding. This Munster club semi-final marks their 12th Sunday on the go in 16 weekends.
Neither side, as you would expect, are short of casualties. Then again, as Thurles Sarsfields selector Paddy McCormack puts it, neither side are short of momentum either.
“It is a winner’s game,” says McCormack “It is all about winning. You don’t feel the tiredness or the aches or the knocks or the bumps and bruises when you are winning.”
A week after Tipperary’s replay defeat to Kilkenny, Thurles Sarsfields travelled to Templemore to square off against Portroe. Management were unsure as to the frame of mind of Lar Corbett, Michael Cahill and the Mahers — Padraig, Ronan and Denis. The heartache of Croke Park was still raw. “In fairness, those lads are great club players. We hammered Portroe and then got a tough draw in Drom-Inch, who had beaten us in the Mid-Tipp championship. They were one of the favourites and a bogey team for us. We got through, just about. After that, we just got on a roll. I can’t describe it any better. Some of the lads won their fifth county title last Sunday. Celebrations would be curtailed in a situation like that. It wasn’t like we were winning our first, it was title 33 for the club. Lads had work Monday morning so there was no mad session. Preparations for Munster began straightaway. We came together on Tuesday evening for a light workout, as we have for the past six weeks.”
McCormack is adamant the senior team were sustained during the three-month summer hiatus by the progress of the club’s intermediate hurlers, ending as they did a 25-year wait for Mid-Tipperary glory.
“Luckily enough, we had our intermediate team also in the county final last weekend. They had great success during the summer. All those players are part of the senior panel. We always had up to 40 training and so it was always competitive, the intensity never dropped. The county lads, when they could, would show face. Their presence alone lifted everyone. The schedule of the last couple of weeks has been tough, but we were out of the championship in June of 2013 so we were never going to complain when the championship was played this year so long as we were involved. The week-in, week-out schedule suits us. On top of that, we are being carried by momentum. There is a great attitude around the place when you are winning. It’s been a great journey thus far, made much easier by the fact that we are coming out on top every weekend.”
Standing in their path tomorrow are Cratloe. With the Clare double achieved, the dual operators have now turned their attention to higher peaks, momentum firmly on their side. “Aren’t they the real GAA club, playing hurling and football?” says McCormack.
“They are fantastic. The two men down there, Joe McGrath and Colm Collins, have done tremendous work in keeping both codes going. We have been reading their remarkable story long before we knew we were playing them. They have a lot of household names — Collins, Chaplin and McInerney. They are on the go every week and you don’t hear them complaining. You have to admire what they are doing. They have had time to get over their county final win. They got past Ballygunner which is never easy. It is our fifth time in Munster and we have come up against the likes of Newtownshandrum, De La Salle, there is never an easy game.”
McCormack added: “The priority every year in Tipperary is to win the Dan Breen Cup. Dan Breen is always No.1 and there is no heavy burden over the players saying you have to win Munster. When we won 10 county championships in 11 years back in the 50s and 60s, there was no Munster championship. The current players are better off for that. God knows the amount of Munster titles that team would have won and the pressure it would have left on all teams after that. We are at the end of a long year. We will ask nothing more of the lads than that they do their best.”