It may be Borris-Ileigh’s first run in a while but it’s certainly not Paddy Stapleton’s first rodeo.
The Tipperary All-Ireland winner has been around the block. At 34 years of age, the corner-back is still picking up some of the most dangerous forwards in the game and holding his own.
With age comes experience and Stapleton knows that. He’s well aware that you can do all the defending and some forwards are still going to score. He believes it’s about being realistic in yourself as the game evolves around you.
According to Stapleton the standard of forward play is further now in the club game than it was back in 2009 when he first broke into the Tipperary side.
“That’s it and I think it’s about being realistic. If you have done everything, you know, cut their space off, cut the angle of their run, get tight and get out in front of him, that’s what you want to do. I think even since I started playing county in ’09 when I started properly playing, the movement of forwards has just gone through the roof.
“Like, the club movement now is better than the county movement back then and that’s by a mile. So yeah, it’s getting more difficult all the time but that’s brilliant, it’s such a good challenge but you have to be realistic. If they make the perfect run and the perfect ball comes in you’re only going to give away a goal so you have to be making it just as difficult as you can.”
Borris-Ileigh will look to lean on the experience of men like Stapleton, Brendan Maher and Dan McCormack when they take on Galway champions St. Thomas’ tomorrow.
St. Thomas’ are slight favourites having reached last year’s All-Ireland final and with seemingly only experience at the top level separating the two, the Tipperary champions may look to the Borris-Ileigh of old for inspiration.
Having won the All-Ireland club title in 1987, the club holds the distinction of being the last Tipperary club to reach the top of club hurling. It’s something that could possibly have weighed heavily on the players’ shoulders.
Stapleton claims that was never the case and now they look to the 1987 team as inspiration as they emulate many of their achievements.
“I think now it’s an inspiration, honestly. I think now it’s an inspiration.
“When you go that long without even getting to a county final or any of that you probably get a bit, I never found it weighed hard on me. I was realistic, I just didn’t think we were there or thereabouts a lot of years but just weren’t good enough. I don’t think the history had any part to play in that.
“I don’t think it should have weighed because I just don’t think we had it in our team but now to me, it’s an inspiration.
“I feel like we’ve done it in the past, it’s no bearing on how we do now but it really feels like we’re living up to something that is there already. It’s not a total unknown, people in the parish, they remember what went on and they are getting that feeling again.
“They all remember that so fondly but I suppose they may have forgotten but now I think it’s very inspiring. We know those people, we see them in the pubs and in the shops. Like they had a fundraiser for us on their own back, that era so it’s really brought that unity into it.”
When jokingly put to him that their success could quieten a few of the All-Ireland winners around the club, Stapleton gave props to Borris-Ileigh’s hurling heroes claiming they were opinionated but never bad and that ultimately they were happier than anyone to see them make a breakthrough in 2019.
“To be fair, they were never bad. They’d a very opinionated, they are a very opinionated bunch there but I think most good teams have opinionated people there. Yeah, they always wanted us to do better now that’s for certain but we knew that and we knew we could have done better. They’re more happy for us than anything else.”
Stapleton continued by suggesting that in some ways, their recent success may have actually lifted the weight off the previous generation’s shoulders.
“That’s it! And I tell ya, I didn’t meet people happier than what they were after the last two cup wins. Honest to God, we met them all on the pitch and they were in floods of tears. Maybe there was a certain thing that was lifted off them.
“At last, there’s somebody else to talk about when they have to talk about Borris hurling. Like they are constantly getting reminded about it. but they were just so delighted. Ah they haven’t said much to us I think they are just happy with the way we are playing and that our mentality and everything is pretty good but ah yeah one or two would clip ya now, keep ya in line no bother.”