Former Tipperary captain Ger ‘Redser’ O’Grady was there for Pa Bourke’s once-in-a-lifetime achievement on July 29.
In fact Redser played in the full-forward line when his team-mate hit a scarcely-believable 6-3 during Thurles Sarsfields’ 7-16 to 2-13 win over Loughmore-Castleiney in the Tipperary Mid final recently.
“He’s probably one of the best players we’ve had in a long, long time to take 21-yard frees,” says Redser of the Thurles and Tipp forward.
“If he connects on it at all, you’re nearly guaranteed a goal. Lucky enough he got the three of them in a row and then three from play. It was a once-in-a-lifetime achievement and I don’t think it will ever be done again.”
It would have been easy to question Bourke’s confidence after the Munster final two weeks earlier, when manager Declan Ryan replaced the wing-forward before half-time, but his magnificent Mid final haul suggests otherwise. Not that Bourke hasn’t displayed free-taking heroics before, having scored a last-minute 21 to beat Toomevara in a 2010 county semi-final.
“Last puck of the game, I think,” recalls Redser. “I think it was wrong [to take him off against Waterford] because against Limerick he was our best player. Five minutes before half-time, I think, is wrong on a player. It was a bad, bad move.
“But look, someone is going to lose out when you have Eoin Kelly on the sideline — they’re trying to get him on the field as quick as they can as well.”
Redser is backing four of his Sarsfields clubmates to help Tipperary through to a fourth successive All-Ireland final on Sunday, with Padraic Maher, Bourke, Lar Corbett and Michael Cahill all set to start. And he has specific thoughts on how Tipp should approach this game.
“First of all,” he said. “I think Padraic Maher should be the first man over on Shefflin and, even before the whistle, maybe hit him an auld shot to get things going. Because Shefflin is their big man, when he’s stopped the whole Kilkenny thing kind of stops.”
This season, Shefflin has ratcheted up plenty of his 3-24 (0-20 from frees) from corner-forward, so should Maher follow him into the corner if it pans out that way?
“I wouldn’t send him back there but I have a feeling Shefflin is going to go in on Conor O’Brien,” said O’Grady. “Like he was a bigger man than John O’Keeffe [last year], John O’Keeffe’s first All-Ireland final, and it was a masterstroke by Brian Cody.”
Tipperary’s attack malfunctioned in last year’s final and they never managed to impose their gameplan, but O’Grady feels the side has been dovetailing much better this season.
“For Tipp to win, their forwards have to be moving well, take on the Kilkenny backs, and ask them the questions,” he said.
“In 2010, Lar Corbett was midfield, wing-forward, full-forward — if you stay in the one position, Kilkenny will eat you up. But if you keep moving and keep rotating the forwards, then you ask them the questions.
“If Larry can get on the ball Sunday, Tipp will win.”
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