Tipperary haven’t exactly set the championship alight so far this year like they did in 2016, but they are still in the hunt for September glory yet again.
The defending All-Ireland champions saw a drastic halt to the momentum they carried through to the beginning of 2017 from last year’s convincing Liam MacCarthy Cup triumph when they suffered a surprise hammering at the hands of Galway in the league final. Losing to Cork in their championship opener at the Munster quarter-final stage was when it appeared as though the wheels were falling off for Michael Ryan’s side.
Since then, The Premier have rebounded with qualifier wins over Westmeath and Dublin, the latter proving to be a demolition job in which they clocked up 6-26. This seemed to represent their mojo being back. Most notable about that victory over the Dubs was the clicking back into form of their potent attacking trio of Seamus Callanan, John McGrath and Bubbles O’Dwyer.
However, it was in the wake of that defeat to the Rebels at the back end of May in Thurles when the Tipp camp appeared to be in turmoil. Cathal Barrett was thrown off the panel in the aftermath of the game for a breach of discipline, while infamously, vicious rumours were spread throughout social media circles across the country about the personal lives of named players within the set-up.
Former Tipp hurler and All-Ireland winner in that memorable 2010 season, Shane McGrath spoke to Pundit Arena ahead of Saturday’s quarter-final clash against Clare, and he addressed the issue of those unsavoury rumours about the players being spread.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous, the comments that were made about the players and the carry on of players.
“It’s just putting lads down like, just because they lost a match, all these rumours start up.
“It’s gone on a lot in Tipperary and i think it’s time people need to realise to take these things with a pinch of salt. The person that’s starting them is probably a lad that wasn’t even at the match first of all and it’s just ridiculous,” he said.
McGrath was part of the Tipperary team that were accused of going on a binge drinking session after losing to Limerick in the 2014 Munster championship and knows all about how distasteful accusations can affect players and the team in general.
“There’s people in the GAA world and people in Tipperary that do this thing, when Tipperary win a match, everything is fine, no matter what they do, everything is fine. Where they were the week before, what happened four months before, anything is fine because we won the match.
“When you lose a match, all these rumours start coming out, all these stories are all blown out of proportion and it’s just absolutely ridiculous in my opinion, because, okay, as an inter-county player you put yourself up there to be knocked as a player and that’s fine, a lot of lads can take that. They can understand that they get a 5 or 6 out of 10 in the paper because it didn’t go well for them.
“But it’s when you’re bringing a lad’s personal life into it and his partner or whatever it may be, that’s when it really has to stop,” McGrath expressed.
Having gone through it all himself before, the ex-midfielder is in as good a position as any to advise the current crop of player how to deal with the fiasco. Although the storm has all but blown over by now, McGrath is confident that Ryan’s charges can use the malicious and unfounded rumours about them to their advantage, as fuel to drive them on to their first successful All-Ireland retention since 1964-65.
“It’s been happening a long time now, with the teams I was involved in and the current set-up as well.
“The boys are bigger than that, the lads inside are bigger than that, they just have to bite their tongue for as long as they have to.
“Hopefully they’ll get to do all their talking on the pitch and get the end result. It’d be nice to maybe say something like, “you weren’t right about what you said,” or “you shouldn’t have said that,” etc.,” he concluded.
The Premier travel to Páirc Uí Chaoimh on Saturday in an effort to reach the last four of the All-Ireland, and going off there display the last day out against Dublin, Clare have every reason to be fearful that there perhaps is that little something extra motivating this group of Tipp hurlers.
Listen to the full interview with Shane McGrath on this week’s episode of The 16th Man.