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Dublin: 12°C Wednesday 30 September 2020

'It is very important...This is the fifth final we've played in, we've lost the previous four'

Brendan Maher is chasing an elusive first league medal in Nowlan Park on Sunday.

HE’S WON TWO All-Irelands and five Munster crowns, but one trophy that has eluded Brendan Maher in his Tipperary career to date is the Allianz Hurling League title.

Sure, the league is the league, but the 29-year-old has played in four Division 1 finals since he broke through in 2009 and he’s lost all four.

Seamus Callanan, currently out with a back injury, is the only member of the Premier squad currently with a league medal.

2018 Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Final Preview Brendan Maher was in Croke Park at the 2018 Allianz Hurling League Division 1 Final Preview Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

Three of those final defeats have come to Sunday’s opponents Kilkenny, while last year’s hammering by Galway derailed Tipperary’s season for a spell.

“It is very important, I suppose you can look at it two ways,” Maher says ahead of the Nowlan Park clash. “We are maybe in bonus territory to a certain extent because ultimately the championship is the be all and end all for you, but when you get to a final you want to win it.

“We have been approaching every game to try to win it, there has been that process week on week. We do the same thing, prepare the same way.”

Premier boss Michael Ryan has wisely blooded young talent and added depth to his squad in the spring. Their training has been better tailored this season, according to Maher, with an intense championship schedule fast approaching in May.

“I would say we aren’t training as hard between the games,” says the midfielder. “I think with the new structure and what is coming you have to manage the fatigue and manage the levels of training.

Brendan Maher takes a free Source: Conor Wyse/INPHO

“We have always trained hard during the league, we have still trained hard this year, but maybe just not as much as last year. We trained an awful lot, I think we had 10 weeks in a row last year where we just trained on Tuesday and Thursday flat out and played the games at the weekend. I think it just caught up with us a bit.

“Now it isn’t the only reason, we just had a bad performance on the day. I think we have had a little bit of a different approach this year where all our S&C coaches are monitoring what we are doing and they are pulling lads back.

“For example, lads that played 70 minutes plus on Saturday night didn’t train as much as the lads last night, they were pulled out in the session. Stuff like that helps you recover a bit better so that you can have that turnaround to be that bit fresher.”

Injuries to regulars like Seamus Callanan, Noel McGrath and John O’Dwyer during various stages of the league have handed opportunities for youngsters like Alan Flynn and Willie Connors, both of whom performed well win over Limerick last Saturday.

Connors played in the Division 3 final at corner-back with the county footballers in April 2017, but plays as a corner-forward in the small ball code and was only called up by Michael Ryan during the league.

Willie Connors Willie Connors in the 2017 Division 3 final Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“Mick and the management made it very clear to us, if you perform on the training pitch you will get your opportunity and he has stuck to his word.

“You see the likes of Willie Connors, who started on Saturday night, he only joined the panel about six weeks ago and he is performing really well in training. So he has got his chance and they are being really true to their word.

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Elsewhere, there’s a sense of freshness with Cathal Barrett, Ronan Maher and Michael Breen enjoying extended runs in new positions around the field.

“I remember Cathal’s first few games at midfield he couldn’t get over the difference playing there versus corner-back so it is great. That is quite the opposite going from corner-back to being a midfielder. He is doing really well there.

“Ronan has moved around half-back and midfield, Mikey Breen obviously then moving from midfield up to the full forward line. It is great to have versatile players like that at our disposal.

“It is not everyone that can do that, it is only those select few that have been doing it. I think he has picked out the players that are versatile, who can do it for their club and tries to get that bit out of them at inter-county level as well.”

Tipperary's Jason Forde hits a free Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Jason Forde has hit the headlines with 5-60 so far in the league and has thrived in a new-role at full-forward this year.

“I think Jason himself would tell you, he put in a savage pre-season physically. He did an awful lot of work and he trimmed up. Physically, he’s in unbelievable shape. He’s always had savage skill. I remember watching him playing schools hurling, he was untouchable.

“He’s always had that and I suppose he was just maybe missing that extra thing that he was lacking. He would have said himself it was a little bit of fitness maybe at times and he put in a savage winter. I think he gave three months on his own training plan outside of ours. He’s getting his just reward now and he’s in great form and I hope it continues.”

Ronan Maher scored two stunning sideline cuts on Saturday night in Thurles, and his team-mate would like to see two points being introduced for the skill, on a trial basis at least.

“I’ve seen him doing some things in trainings, hitting line balls and that, it’s just unbelievable. He has such power, he makes it look so easy. There’s no big long run-up.

“The only other player I’ve seen do it was Joe Canning, I’m not sure what year it was. I remember him scoring one in Thurles, it was a monster. It’s an unbelievable skill and there is that debate, ‘Should it be two points?’

“As you can see there’s only the few select players in each county can do it as well as they can. I think that skill could be rewarded, I’d love to see it being trialled even in the league to see if it would add a little bit of spice to the game.”

Source: The42 Podcasts/SoundCloud

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