Padraic Maher: Tipperary must raise game this season

Tipperary captain Padraic Maher says he and his teammates will have to improve on their 2016 form if they’re to replicate last year’s All-Ireland victory.

“We know if we play the same as last year, then we’re going to find it hard to do what we did last year.

“We have to up it ourselves, we’re taking it a game at a time and we have a break for the weekend - try to get the lads involved in the Fitzgibbon through that weekend, then look forward to Clare - back home after two rounds of the league away.

“Mick (Ryan, manager) gave a lot of players a run again on Sunday to show what they’re capable of.

“We know we’re going in the right direction, but we’ve plenty to improve on as well.”

Tipperary have two wins already but in the league Maher says any team can beat any other: “The next day anything could happen - Clare went down to Cork and lost but then they beat Kilkenny, you don’t know what’s coming around the corner.

“The league is a great competition in that it sets you up well for the championship, so we’d like to stay in it as long as we can.

“The league was like that last year as well, every team can beat each other. Last Sunday the pitch was very heavy, it was a pure dogfight with Waterford, as it often is. 

"It was good to get two points but it’s more important that plenty of lads are getting game time, too.”

That’s a challenge for management, he believes. 

“It’s hard - that goes for every county team - because so many players are going during the week with the colleges and then playing for the county at the weekend, and I’ve no doubt he (Michael Ryan) will change it up for the next day again.”

For Waterford selector Dan Shanahan, last Sunday underlined Tipp’s standing as the best team in the country. 

“It’s just being honest,” he said.

“You saw them against Dublin last week in bad conditions.

“You see the calibre of player they can bring on to the field, it’s unbelievable.

“Credit to them, they’re All-Ireland champions for a reason. We must get up to their level and compete.”

Waterford face Dublin next, and Shanahan echoed Maher on the fine margins: “No-one gave Dublin a chance going down to Páirc Uí Rinn but anyone can beat anyone. Tipp are obviously top but we’ll battle. We’ve Dublin in two weeks time, Saturday week in Croke Park.

“Going from last night, you’d say it’ll suit Dublin, big wide pitch and the way they players ran Saturday night was unbelievable.

"It really hurt Cork in the backs. But again we’ll go back, we’ll take the defeat on the chin. Back to the drawing board, see where we have to improve and we will improve for Saturday week.”

That said, Shanahan said playing in Croke Park was invaluable to his side.

“It’s unbelievable. I don’t think teams play enough games up there. They’re thrown in there for a semi-final but to play in Croke Park in a league game in front of whatever will be there, the football supporters will start filling in, even Sunday’s crowd was unbelievable for Waterford.

“The last time we saw a crowd like that was for Ken McGrath’s fundraiser.

“That’s what it’s all about. We’re bringing crowds back to the fields again. We’re disappointed, don’t get me wrong, but we’ll go back to the drawing board and see where we can improve and we will improve.”

The Lismore clubman was happy last year’s star Austin Gleeson got a full game under his belt and outlined Waterford’s injury situation.

“Austin needed a game, to be honest with you, and I don’t think he was too bad, he’ll get sharper.

“Colin Dunford had a hamstring problem, Brick (Walsh) and Jamie Barron were sick. Paddy Curran had a back spasm. Philip Mahony, Daragh Fives . . . we’ve a good few lads to come back as well, as have other teams.

“You put the Cuala lads into the Dublin setup lads and in Croke Park they’ll be as good as any team. I can assure you of that.”

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