By the time Brendan Maher left the Gaelic Grounds last Sunday, he had moved on. After that weighty loss to Limerick, Liam Sheedy gave him and the other Tipperary players a couple of evenings off to decompress before returning to training but he was already thinking of an All-Ireland quarter-final.
Now 30, the 2016 All-Ireland winning captain is more philosophical about his hurling but a series of deaths in his locality in 2019 including that of Amanda Stapleton, sister of his friend and former county team-mate Paddy, have helped him keep his sporting disappointments in check.
“We’ve had a bit of tragedy in Borrisoleigh this year. I lost my own first cousin, a young woman, to cancer. We had a young fella who unfortunately had a tragic death there a couple of months ago as well.
“That stuff is still very raw in the club and in the town of Borrisoleigh. I met my cousin’s husband not long after the game last Sunday. You start talking to people like that and you realise you’re not going to start feeling sorry for yourself about losing a game.
“Your perspective and your outlook changes.
That would have come the last couple of years with age and experience. You don’t take it to heart as much, I suppose. The hunger and the commitment and the attitude that you give doesn’t change but maybe the response to failure and setbacks does change.
“I’m definitely approaching things a lot differently. I’m enjoying it a lot more, I’d say. I don’t take criticism to heart, I don’t take setbacks as setbacks anymore — it’s just a little bit of a roadblock and you get over it.”
Despite their obvious shortcomings in Limerick, Tipperary are still alive. Following their previous defeat 12 months previous, they were out of the Championship. Worse still for Maher, he sustained a cruciate tear just minutes before the defeat to Clare in Thurles confirmed their departure.
Strangely though, the injury distracted him from the county’s early exit. “If anything it gave me another focus if that makes sense in that even though I was gutted that we were out of the Championship I was facing something completely different where I was thinking, ‘Am I going to get back hurling at all?’ Like, I’d never been faced with an injury like that and you hear all the cases of ‘he was never right after that’ so my focus shifted straight away. It was, ‘Right, you need to go at this now and give everything you can to get back playing’.
That sounds maybe a bit mad but it did give me a new focus.
“It is a huge mental challenge and I probably underestimated it at the start but then overcoming it and getting through and getting back playing the way I am I don’t think about it and I can’t explain how you get over it.”
Diligence helped, though.
From the day after the game to the operation in Santry on July 20, Maher prehabbed his knee daily.
That work with team physio and former Tipperary player Paddy O’Brien saved him over a month in recovery time and he returned to contact training on January 20.
The appointment of Liam Sheedy last September might have cut his time on the sidelines to.
“I was waiting for that phone call to come from Liam and he rang me and he assured me. He knew where I was at, he had talked to the physios and he reassured and said, ‘Look, I’m not putting any pressure on you. Whenever you’re right, you’re right’.
“That was nice to get as well but it also gave a bit of motivation as well to say, ‘Well, I’m going to get back sooner than he thinks’.
I’ve some respect for him, he gave me my first opportunity as a 14-year-old playing divisional U16. I played under him at minor and obviously senior on two different occasions. He’s been a huge influence on my career and he’s somebody you want to perform for.
In a fine damage limitation on job on Aaron Gillane as he did on Tony Kelly and Austin Gleeson earlier in the Munster SHC, Maher did just that.
It may have been in defeat but he like his manager is preaching positivity as they intend getting back to winning tomorrow.
“If you look at our overall season so far we’ve played five Championship matches and won four of them and performed very well in those games. We’re not going to let one blip detract from what we’re doing.
“We’re doing a lot of things right and we just dipped a little bit in that game and we know what we can do and what we have to do to get back up to that level.
"That’s what training and our preparation is about, to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”