Maher remains positive despite ‘hard to believe’ negativity of Tipp fans

Maher remains positive despite ‘hard to believe’ negativity of Tipp fans

23 March 2014; Brendan Maher, Tipperary. Allianz Hurling League Division 1A Round 5, Tipperary v Dublin. Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. Picture credit: Stephen McCarthy / SPORTSFILE
Brendan Maher, Tipperary

JACKIE CAHILL – PUBLISHED 29 MARCH 2014 02:30 AM Irish Independent

AS team captain, he’s felt it more than most. Swimming in the goldfish bowl that is Tipperary hurling is difficult enough at the best of times, but it’s nigh on impossible when the county’s flagship team is underperforming.

Brendan Maher has tried to steer clear of the criticism, the whispers, the rumours and the negativity.

But it’s hard to block it out when hurling is all that those he comes in contact with want to talk about.

The Borrisoleigh man is far too polite to tell anyone to take a hike, so he stands there, listens and soaks it up.

He is a young man, at 25 years of age, burdened with the heavy expectation of a demanding Tipperary public.

“We always say: ‘Ah, sure it’s the same in every county,’ but I don’t know,” he says.

“The last few years, the amount of stuff that’s been said to me, things that are flying around… it’s hard to believe that it is as bad in other counties. It’s something you have to learn to deal with.”

He’s asked if he would prefer to work and live outside of Tipperary, just to get away from it all.

But Maher enjoys the simple life, being close to home, making those trips to training on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

A primary school teacher, he completed a stint on maternity cover in Birdhill this week and he’ll be subbing until the summer break.

“I like being close to home,” he confirms.

“I wouldn’t be a fan of teaching in my home parish, dealing with children of parents you know well – a bad mix.

“Birdhill, or somewhere like that is ideal, half an hour from Borrisoleigh but still within reasonable distance of work and training.”

As for the hurling, tomorrow the knock-out stuff begins in earnest. Cork arrive in Thurles for an Allianz League quarter-final and Maher acknowledges that if Tipp lose, the knives will come out again.

“We tried to address it a few years ago, anticipate what was coming,” he says.

“I would have tried to block it out before, but now I accept it, let it in and use it as motivation. Everyone has their own way of dealing with it, but it does affect players, affects even their families.

“It’s not a big city. Everyone is so accessible, you’re meeting people every day, so it’s impossible to block it out fully, no matter how hard you try.

“I can’t go one day without someone giving out about something. What I’ve done – and this is nothing against media – is to stop reading about it.

“I confine myself to my own interests, soccer and golf and try to get away from the hurling a bit. You need to be able to relax your mind.”

Recently, manager Eamon O’Shea admitted an “edgy” nature to Tipperary’s play, after they had lost successive league games against Kilkenny, Clare and Galway.

Even Maher, whose stick is normally like velcro, wasn’t immune. He admits: “I know it has affected myself, my own performance, my mentality.

“It’s very hard to do that, to try and be positive, when all this negativity is there.

“The result against Kilkenny, then the game against Clare, that was a very tough two or three weeks, you were being scrutinised every time you left your house.

“The one thing we said was that the only place you can put it right is on the field – you can’t explain it, you can’t try to justify it, just work as hard you can in training.

“We haven’t reached our full potential yet, but we did get an important win against Dublin.”

Maher loved hearing the roars of encouragement from the home support in the second half last Sunday. Jeers replaced by cheers.

“The crowd got behind us and that made a big difference,” he says.

ROAR

“I can remember at one stage in the second half you could hear the roar of the crowd and it does lift you – I don’t think the crowd themselves realise how much it does lift you, but it does.

“The same when they’re roaring if someone makes a mistake, you hear the moans and the groans as well. That’s all to do with the intensity of it, you’d hear it in the breaks in play.”

At centre-back, Maher was excellent, displaying his best form of the season after playing most of his 2014 hurling at midfield.

“I have played a good few games there,” he nods. Challenge games, with the club all the way up along. I like it. I consider myself a reasonably good reader of the game, so it suits me in that sense. But I don’t mind where I’m picked as long as I can do a job for the team.”

Tomorrow, it’s Cork and Maher’s team will try not to concentrate on the result – performance comes first.

“If we perform we can beat most teams, it’s about getting that work ethic, the togetherness. We had it on Sunday against Dublin.”

 

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