Bonner Maher: It wasn’t that bad a year for Tipperary

Patrick ‘Bonnar’ Maher has a different read on Tipperary’s 2017 season to most hurling observers.

Bonner Maher: It wasn’t that bad a year for Tipperary

Okay, the league final shelling wasn’t pretty, neither was their subsequent Munster Championship exit at the hands of Cork. He accepts that. League and Munster, however, weren’t what Tipperary was chasing. Successfully retaining Liam MacCarthy for the first time since 1965 was the only show in town.

Michael Ryan’s charges came up short in that regard, yes, but that does not justify the criticism which was lumped at them for most of the summer, well before they fell at the semi-final fence in early August.

“You have to take things in perspective. You’re saying we were bombarded. I know things didn’t go our away against Cork in Munster, but we built momentum going through the qualifiers.

"To lose by a point to the All-Ireland champions, a point that only a handful of players in Ireland could manage to score, you can’t actually say it was a bad year,” remarked the 28-year-old on the PwC All-Star Tour to Singapore.

“We picked ourselves up after the league and Munster and came at Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final. It was two heavyweights going blow for blow. It wasn’t that bad of a year.”

Maher hums a different tune when reflecting on his own campaign. Six months of peacekeeping duty with the Irish Defence Forces in the Golan Heights saw him miss the vast majority of their league campaign.

It wasn’t really until May that he was fully integrated back into the Premier camp. His hurling, as a result, suffered. The sharpness wasn’t there.

Coming into 2017, he had been an All-Star in two of the previous three seasons. He wasn’t nominated this year.

“While your fitness would be up to a certain level, your hurling, it obviously takes you a while to get back into it.

“One thing that always stands to me is the fitness, but the hurling is probably something I lacked this year. I was fairly disappointed with how the year went for me.

“You put an awful lot of demand on yourself to try and get up to that level but it’s hard when boys have five months on you from a hurling perspective.”

The hurleys, of course, were brought to the Golan Heights. But aside from the bit of wall ball, there wasn’t much he could do.

The first few weeks overseas had him on edge as gunshots and explosives rang through the air.

“I know the first week we were there, a yoke pulled up fairly close to us and started firing back into Israel. There were rockets going off and you’re just lying there in your bed.

“After about a month out there, you hear an explosion and you’re just used to it. We’re there to observe the area of separation between Israel and Syria.

"We were interchanging through both camps, so it was two weeks out in Syria and two in Israel. You’d be seeing lads going around on mopeds with AK-47s hanging out the back. It’s bananas.”

Having fulfilled his contract with the Defence Forces, Maher was entitled to a career break upon returning home. He’s since enrolled at DIT where he began studying Business Management back in September.

That’ll ensure Fitzgibbon Cup hurling next month and Maher knows it’ll stand him in good stead when the ground hardens and the grass is shorter.

One of six Tipp senior survivors from the 2010 All-Ireland U21 winning team, he knows the next few years will be crucial to how this group is remembered.

“We’ve been in some titanic battles up along and we probably feel that we should have more than we have. But you’ve got to be happy with what you’ve achieved too when you’re coming up against the best.

“Over the next two years, it’ll define us as a team. We’re just looking forward to that challenge, we’re looking forward to next year.

“There is still a good bit left in this generation and you have an awful lot of younger guys coming through as well.

You see any team that makes the breakthrough, it’s usually when a fresh crop come in and give a bit of bite to the older boys.

The freshness is huge for young lads coming through so it’s important for us too, with the legacy and stuff like that, to show these boys the way and be leaders.

“To have one All-Ireland medal is great, to have two is unreal. To add another one to that would be a dream come true.”

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