'Unfortunate timing' of Tipp's trip to Spain, the pain of losing on penalties and Bonner's return

Brendan Maher is gearing up for a unique hurling championship in 2020.

TIPPERARY HURLER BRENDAN Maher reflects on their trip to Spain earlier this year for a training camp as “unfortunate timing.”

bord-gais-energy-gaa-all-ireland-senior-hurling-championship-launch Brendan Maher says the timing of Tipperary's trip to Spain was unfortunate but that all precautions were taken during their stay. Source: SPORTSFILE

March seems like decades ago now, given how the pandemic has impacted on the passage of time. But it was just a few months ago, back in the early days of Ireland’s exposure to Covid-19. The lockdown phase of our lives hadn’t even started yet.

At the time, Spain was considered to be the second-worst hit European country after Italy in relation to their rate of Covid-19 cases.

The Government was advising against non-essential travel to Madrid and other northern areas of Spain.

However, Tipperary’s training camp was based in Campoamor near Alicante in the south east of the country.

The trip didn’t result in any cases of Covid-19 arising in the squad, and Maher insists that all the relevant medical protocols were observed during their stay.

“It was unfortunate timing,” he says.

“When everything was being planned for that and we were getting ready to go on the Sunday I don’t think anybody knew what was going to come towards the end of that week. If anything, where we were that week was so safe. We were in our own little private compound with a couple of soccer pitches. We were safe if not safer than we were had we been at home.

“We had a doctor with us and the best of care and weren’t in contact with anyone. When we came home we all did our two weeks the same as anyone else who had international travel. Lads just got on with it.”

The inversion of the GAA season allowed Maher to focus his time on playing for Borris-Ileigh this summer.

After reaching the All-Ireland final earlier this year, they crashed at the semi-final stage of the Tipperary SHC after a thrilling encounter with Drom & Inch in August. Extra-time and penalties were needed to separate the sides where Drom & Inch came through with a 3-1 win after Maher’s attempt was saved.

“It was unfortunate I suppose the way it finished,” he says, looking back on the pain of that defeat.

“When you’re not beaten in open play, and you lose in the way that we did, it’s hard to take. But look again, things had to be a different way this year, and that’s the way we knew it was going to penalties if it was a draw after extra-time. Look, credit to Drom – they took their penalties well, we took ours poorly. 

“I’m not going to say ‘there shouldn’t have been penalties’. We knew what the scenario was going to be. It’s the same for both teams.”

Tipperary will have to wait until November to get their Munster SHC campaign underway, as Clare and Limerick battle it out for the right to take on the Premier County.

Maher is thrilled to be back training with his county comrades ahead of that outing, including Tipperary footballer John Meagher who recently switched to the hurling squad.

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patrick-maher-leaves-the-pitch-injured Bonner Maher being stretchered off against Limerick in 2019. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Tipperary will also go into this campaign with Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher back in rotation. The star forward tore his cruciate in last year’s Munster championship against Limerick, but is back at full power now according to his namesake.

“Bonner’s flying it,” says Brendan.

“He got a good run with his club Lorrha-Dorrha this year, they got to the Seamus Ó’Riain final so that was brilliant for him to get the amount of games in. Bonner was just coming back, starting training when the lockdown hit so that was very unfortunate for him. 

“So to get the club season going and to get those games in was brilliant. He’s back, he’s all guns blazing, flying fit as usual.”

Maher understands the horrible recovery journey that his team-mate has just endured.

He too was felled by the dreaded knee injury back in 2018 before making a glorious return to help Tipperary to Liam MacCarthy glory last year.

He was happy to offer advice and support when Bonner but was eager to emphasise that the rehab differs from person to person.

“Bonner being Bonner, he was straight onto me like ‘how long was it?’ ‘Was it six months or seven months?’ I said, look it doesn’t matter just do what you can yourself.

Anyone that knows Bonner knows that holding him back is the biggest challenge, he’s an absolute animal and I know there was videos of him going around using an assault bike without using the pedals, just using his arms.

“I was there as an open ear whenever he wanted it but it is hard to pass on things like that, because it’s very much individual based and you just have to follow the programme and see how it reacts.”

Meanwhile Tipperary U20 hurling boss John Devane has named six players who started in last year’s All-Ireland final win over Cork in his squad for this year’s championship.

Tipperary play Clare in Semple Stadium in their quarter-final next Monday night with goalkeeper Aaron Browne, captain Eoghan Connolly, Johnny Ryan, Gearóid O’Connor, Andrew Ormond and Conor Bowe all part of the 34-man panel.

Devane has also included some club stars with Bryan McLoughney, the match-winning hero in last month’s Tipperary senior final for Kiladangan, selected along with club-mate Darragh Flannery.

There are three players included from the Borris-Ileigh team that reached the All-Ireland club final against Ballyhale Shamrocks last January in James Devaney, Kevin Maher and Ray McCormack.

Tipperary U20 Squad

1. Aaron Browne – Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams
2. Andrew Ormond – JK Brackens
3. Bryan McLoughney – Kiladangan
4. Conor Bowe – Moyne-Templetuohy
5. Conor Hennessy – Nenagh Éire Óg
6. Conor O’Dwyer – Cashel King Cormacs
7. Conor Whelan – Carrick Davins
8. Darragh Flannery – Kiladangan
9. Devon Ryan – Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams
10. Éanna McBride – JK Brackens
11. Enda Dunphy – St. Mary’s
12. Eoghan Connolly (Capt.) – Cashel King Cormacs
13. Eoin Purcell – Thurles Sarsfields
14. Fintan Purcell – Drom & Inch
15. Gearóid O’Connor – Moyne-Templetuohy
16. Jack Morrissey – Moycarkey-Borris
17. James Devaney – Borris-Ileigh
18. John Ryan – Boherlahan-Dualla
19. Johnny Ryan – Arravale Rovers
20. Keith Ryan – Upperchurch-Drombane
21. Kevin Hayes – Moycarkey-Borris
22. Kevin Maher – Borris-Ileigh
23. Kevin McCarthy – Toomevara
24. Kian O’Kelly – Kilruane MacDonaghs
25. Kieran Moloney – Thurles Sarsfields
26. Luke Cashin – Roscrea
27. Max Hackett – Moycarkey-Borris
28. Ray McCormack – Borris-Ileigh
29. Rhys Shelly – Moycarkey-Borris
30. Seán Hayes – Kiladangan
31. Seán Phelan – Nenagh Éire Óg
32. Seán Ryan – Templederry Kenyons
33. Stephen Kirwan – Burgess
34. Willie Barry – Cappawhite

Brendan Maher was speaking at the launch of Bord Gáis Energy’s sponsorship of the 2020 GAA Senior Hurling Championship and the BGE U20’s Hurling Championship.

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