Mr Versatility seeks to re-establish himself in Tipperary side

Brendan Maher on getting his confidence back, the search for a permanent teaching job and claiming a first hurling league medal.

Tipperary's Brendan Maher.
Tipperary's Brendan Maher.
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

SINCE THE DIZZY heights they ascended to in September 2010, Tipperary have endured two difficult seasons as they slipped back in the standings.

Their confidence was rattled by the All-Ireland final loss in 2011 and then wounded deeply by the pounding they suffered in last August’s All-Ireland semi-final.

Kilkenny administered the punishment on both occasions and lie in wait as Tipperary head to Nowlan Park for Sunday’s Allianz hurling league final.

If this spring has been restorative for the team as a whole, then Brendan Maher freely admits that he was a prime candidate in need of a confidence boost.

The 2010 Young Hurler Of The Year can trace his first setback to the broken ankle he sustained in March 2011. Recovering physically and mentally from that setback took time.

2Physically it’s just you come back within whatever length of time it takes. Mentally it has an effect. You’re trying to get your place back and your confidence back. That doesn’t come easy when you’re playing high intensity games as you’re not eased back into it.

“My confidence wasn’t as high as it should have been last year. Myself and Shane (McGrath) would have talked about that when we were playing together; we weren’t as confident as we should have been. I’m just thankful that I’m back hurling where I should be so far this year.”

Being named vice-captain was a step in the right direction for the Borrisoleigh club man but while his remarkable versatility may have been an asset in making his initial inter-county breakthrough, it proved problematic in recent times.

“That was one thing that I struggled with after I came back from the injury. I was used as cover in positions because, I suppose, I’m versatile. I was seen as cover for the half-back line, full-back line, midfield and even the half-forward line.

“It was one thing that I discussed with the (current) management – I would like to have one or two positions. I think that’s the way Eamon (O’Shea) has looked at it, half-back or midfield this year. At least I know that I’m in with a chance of a place. I like being out in the middle third, being involved as much as possible.”

Brendan Maher in action for Tipperary against Dublin in the league semi-final.
Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

Stability off the field is something Maher is in search of as well. He graduated as a primary school teacher from Limerick’s Mary Immaculate College in May 2009 and then did his Dip the following year. Since then he has been looking for a permanent position.

“I’m only substitute teaching at the moment. I was on a short-term contract in Templederry, subbing for a maternity leave since September of last year but unfortunately that finished up just before Easter. At the moment I’m just working day-to-day, hoping to get a call from a school to go in and get some work.

“It’s tough but I have work with my father at home, he has the truck business and I have a licence. I help out at the Cúl camps also with the county board, glad to have that also.

“With the way the cuts came in, the supplementary panels and all that, I wasn’t entitled to even apply for a teaching job. Thankfully the panels are almost clear now, hopefully something permanent will come up in September.”

For now his focus is on  next Sunday and landing his first league medal, an honour that has eluded him in his senior career to date. The Nowlan Park setting is a stadium he is looking forward to combating in.

“The fact that it’s a smaller stadium, the atmosphere is more intense. The crowd are a bit closer to you. I used to like playing below in Kilmallock because it had a similar atmosphere with the low stands and the tight spaces.

“It’s the only medal I’ve failed to win so far. I came in a year too late and I missed 2008. It’s a league medal and I’d be hoping to win a few of them to be honest.”

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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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