Brendan Maher knows better to try and depict Sunday’s Munster Club SHC final as David v Goliath but there are facts he draws to your attention.
The game will mark the first for a Tipperary club in a senior Munster hurling final in seven years, facing a Ballygunner side in their third in a row, their fourth in five seasons.
On the other hand, Borris-Ileigh are in their first provincial decider in 33 years having recently ended a famine in the county just as long.
While manager Johnny Kelly insists his team aren’t in bonus territory, Maher believes they are and he thinks it will stand to them. “You still thinking, ‘God, it’s great to be here and we’ve nothing to lose’ but the fact you’re in a final now you want to win it.
We’re huge underdogs and rightly so — Ballygunner have been an unbelievable team over the past number of years, totally dominant in Waterford and this is their third final (in a row).
“I won’t say it’s a win-win for us, we’re going to give it everything but if it doesn’t go our way it will still be a successful year for us so we are in bonus territory. The nature of us all and the competitiveness in us all, we’re not going down there on Sunday to make up numbers or we’re not going down there thinking we can’t win. We’re going down there to win and that’s the mindset we have.”
After a historic county final win over Kiladangan less than three weeks ago, they couldn’t have been blamed had they been sluggish against Glen Rovers seven days later but there was no evidence of a hangover.
“In fairness, the experience of Johnny Kelly was massive that week,” says the current All-Star.
“He spoke of his experience with Portumna, their first (county) win, I think. They ended up getting caught by Dunloy (in 2003) and he referenced that a couple of times during the week and the regret they had.
“We enjoyed the county final, we celebrated it like we would have if we didn’t have a game but on the Wednesday night we got back down to training and there was a serious chat after that to say ‘we have four days of operation so let’s giving it everything. We may as well while we’re here’.
“It is bonus territory but it probably would have put a bit of a dampener on the county final win if we didn’t get a performance.
That was the motivation and if anything we performed with a little bit more freedom and confidence on the following Sunday and felt the pressure was off.
Maher is enthused by the young players starring for Borris-Ileigh and believes they won’t be bringing any baggage to a Munster final or be daunted by the opposition. “The addition of the three young lads - Kevin Maher, JD (James Devaney) and Jerry Kelly — has been huge because in the past we were reliant on the same few lads to come up with the goods and Conor (Kenny) would have been the main man upfront along with Dan (McCormack) and myself in midfield.
“Now we can set up players in their best positions and we have good players on the wings as well. Jerry Kelly had three points in the county final and four points the last day and going unnoticed, really.
“People haven’t really been talking about how good he’s been playing but he’s been coming up with the goods for us and obviously Kevin and JD are doing the damage for us. Ray McCormack, he’s still only 19 at wing-back, so essentially we’ve four new players over the last 18 months.
I think the little bit of youth and freedom we have I definitely think is going to work in our favour. There’s nobody expecting anything from us.
“They may be expecting it from the bigger names, myself, Paddy and Dan — people have seen us play— but the rest of us have nothing to fear and nobody is expecting anything from them so it’s a lovely way to go into a game whereas Ballygunner have huge pressure on, they’re expected to win and everybody is talking about Ballyhale-Ballygunner already.”