McGrath embraces pressure game as Premier answer call

McGrath embraces pressure game as Premier answer call

  • Tuesday, April 01, 2014
By Diarmuid O’Flynn and Jackie Cahill

Long before Noel McGrath made his senior inter-county debut with Tipperary in 2009, anyone with even the faintest knowledge of hurling knew this kid was going to be a star.

In 2006, as a 15-year-old, he had been one of the stars of the Tipperary All-Ireland-winning minor side, went on to win another in 2007 and in fact only barely missed out on playing four years of minor hurling, his birthday falling on December 17.

In 2009, he was the young hurler of the year and an All-Star as Tipperary ran Kilkenny oh so close in the All-Ireland senior final. A year later and his reputation was cemented, another All-Star but this time also a Celtic Cross to go with it, and an All-Ireland U21 title to cap it all off — all achieved while he was still a teenager.

Along with Noel, prominent in those wins has been another new Tipperary shooting star, John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer and Denis Maher, with another ‘veteran’, Seamus Callanan, also contributing to an attack that is making a habit of notching big tallies. “There’s serious players, both defenders and attackers, on every team that you play, and I suppose sometimes there’ll be high scores, other days there won’t,” said McGrath. “We’re just delighted we came out on the right side of a big scoreline (Tipperary 3-25 Cork 4-19). John is a serious player, he’s shown it for the last few years at underage and all the different grades, but there’s a lot of serious players working very hard. Seamie Callanan was trying very hard — all 15 players that started and the subs that came in played their part and that’s just the way it has to be.”

Those two recent wins take some pressure off Tipp, who face Clare in a league semi-final on April 20.

That pressure isn’t all negative though. “Pressure comes with playing, that’s the way it is; you have to absorb that and love it, take it in — that’s what you play sport for, the big games and the big days. If you’re not able to handle that pressure, I suppose you have no business being out there.

“We knew the whole time we were working hard on the training field and it just wasn’t coming out onto the field on a Sunday; we knew if we kept going on Tuesday and Thursday and kept working hard, that it would come, and luckily enough, the last two weeks it has.”

And facing Clare, the All-Ireland champions? “Every day you go out there’s a new challenge throws itself at you and that’s another big challenge for us, they’re a serious team.”

Meanwhile Tipperary assistant manager Michael Ryan is backing Cork goalkeeper Anthony Nash as the spotlight again falls on his controversial free-taking style.

Ryan is supporting the All Star despite the fact that Nash lashed home a 20m free against Tipp in Sunday’s League quarter-final.

Nash netted before half-time but the ball was struck from inside the 14m line, leading to fresh calls for the practice to be outlawed.

Ryan acknowledged: “It’s a difficult one. This guy has developed his technique where he can gain a number of yards, where other guys might gain a yard or two.

“I didn’t see the TV replay yet but he scored from around the 13-yard line and that’s phenomenal. “Should he be penalised for developing a skill? I don’t think so.

“However, that’s easy for me to say because I’m not inside in the goals. It’s bordering on dangerous but that’s not his fault.

“I’d argue, however, that any rule you make to handle an exception is a poor rule, and that applies in all walks of lie.

“I admire him, that’s the bottom line for me. He’s a fantastic striker of the ball.”

Nash had a late chance deep in stoppage time to salvage a draw for Cork but Tipp packed their goalline and managed to beat away another 20m free.

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