Tipp and Cats set to renew rivalry

By Brendan O’Brien


Friday, January 29, 2010

FORGET last Tuesday night’s Waterford Crystal Cup defeat to Clare.
Tipperary’s season will only kick into gear on February 20 in Thurles and it will begin much as last year’s ended with a test of their credentials against Kilkenny.

Last September’s All-Ireland final has already been bestowed with legendary status and it will fall to those two rivals to get the 2010 NHL underway under the Semple Stadium lights in three weeks’ time.

Tipp should lack little in the way of motivation. The sides met three times in 2009 with Kilkenny edging the National League final by three points and the All-Ireland decider by five while their first clash, at Nowlan Park in March, ended with Brian Cody’s men 17 points to the good.

"People will take a lot of interest in it but, for us, it is just the start of the league," said Tipp forward Noel McGrath. "It’s a chance to get it up and running, to get ourselves going again and hopefully get back on the right track to where we want to go again next year."

Tipp received all manner of commendations for their role in last September’s shoot-out but they have had to sit and stew over a winter where their appetite and ability to repeat such feats have been dissected.

"For a few days after it you were gutted after losing the way we did, being so close, but we were so far away at the finish,” McGrath reflected. "We got on with it. We had club games a week or two after it so it was out of our system quickly.

"We are looking forward to 2010, hoping to get back to where we were last year and taking that extra step. We have to do a lot of hard training and put in a lot of effort in matches if we want to get back where we want."

With a sterling underage pedigree, McGrath had all the credentials to make an impact in the senior grade, it is just that no-one expected him to make such a big one so soon given he didn’t make his senior championship debut until the opening tie against Cork.

Nevertheless, he has secured a solid foundation on which to build a long and memorable career.

"The year did go well for me, other than not winning the All-Ireland final but I know myself that, without hard work again this year, things might not happen. I have to put in the work, get back in the starting 15, work hard for the league and be ready for the championship."

Knocking Kilkenny off their perch may be priority number one but the focus for McGrath and Tipp over the next five months will be Sunday, May 30 when they face the county that completes hurling’s holy trinity.

"Things didn’t really get going until the middle of March for Cork last year but they will be back there again and we will have to be ready for that because they will be gunning to get back to a Munster final.

"We haven’t really thought about it. It is the third year in a row that we will meet Cork in the first round and we will just have to get on with it. Every match is tough in the championship so we just have to play what’s in front of us and get through that."

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