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From rugby success to an All-Ireland winning hurling role - 'He's a Munster and Irish legend'

Tipp defender Cathal Barrett on Denis Leamy’s influence on the Premier.

Denis Leamy Tipperary's Denis Leamy Source: James Crombie/INPHO

HE DID PLENTY on the pitch as a rugby player but retirement has not brought sporting success in Denis Leamy’s life screeching to a halt.

A decade on from sampling European glory with Munster and seven years on from being a Grand Slam champion with Ireland, Leamy was part of the backroom team with the hurlers of his native Tipperary.

When they lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup in September, it was figures like Seamus Callanan and Michael Ryan that were showered with tributes.

But within the Tipperary squad, they were grateful for the role Leamy played.

“You couldn’t but welcome Denis Leamy, he’s a Munster and Irish legend,” remarks Tipperary defender Cathal Barrett.

“Denis was kind of doing the mental side of things but he was very good just if you were struggling with something on your game.

“Just be able to talk to him. He’s been there and done it all as a professional rugby player. It’s great to be able to talk to someone like that, because he’ll obviously come in and have a different view of things from outside of hurling.

“So it’s great to see from other sports just how they deal with other things.”

Barrett is a Holycross-Ballycahill club man. Leamy is originally from Boherlahan-Dualla. The clubs are neighbours in Mid Tipperary but the 2016 All-Star winning defender was caught by surprise when news reached him that they would be working together.

GRMA launch Cathal Barrett of Holycross-Ballycahill at the GRMA launch in Croke Park yesterday. Source: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

“I never thought of (him). Like if you’re bringing in anyone, I didn’t think of bringing in Denis. I was surprised.

“But look of course I was glad to hear it in the end. He was welcomed with open arms I assure you. He would have more or less filled (the) Kieran (McGeeney) role.

“It’s just be able to see someone else’s perspective from a different sport, coming from rugby and just being able to incorporate whatever he’d learned from his professional career in rugby.

“I’m sure he learned a few things from us as well, from hurling.”

Michael Ryan celebrates with Denis Leamy Denis Leamy celebrates Tipperary's All-Ireland final win with manager Michael Ryan Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Barrett is currently sidelined with his right ankle in a cast after a recent operation to repair damaged ligaments. But he’s not envisaging a long break from action and is primed for an early season return in 2017.

“I just got ligaments done, been needing it there for a while. It was the only time of the year I could get it done so yeah, ah should be fine in the next four or five weeks.

“I’ve had it on for the last year or two, it’s something that’s been coming and going. I probably needed to get something done so it was the time for it.

“Presuming the fitness is okay I should be fine by the time the league comes around. I wouldn’t be expecting to miss anything anyway.

“I’ve no Fitzgibbon on or anything, I’ve finished college and graduated and I’ve nothing now in the winter. Just rest up and let the body heal more than anything.”

He can reflect with pleasure on the 2016 campaign when he picked up an All-Ireland senior medal and an All-Star award for the first time.

James Barry and Cathal Barrett celebrate the final whistle James Barry and Cathal Barrett celebrate Tipperary's All-Ireland final win Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“It was my first so it was a bit special for me. The pictures said it all, there was over 34, 35,000 people in the (Semple) stadium (for the homecoming), the place was buzzing for weeks, still is.

“Everyone is still talking about the All-Ireland, it’s fantastic for Tipp. We’d been close enough, a point or two on a couple of occasions and they’re hard to take. When you finally get over the line it’s a sense of relief at the final whistle.

Cathal Barrett celebrates with Patrick Maher Cathal Barrett celebrates Tipperary's success with Patrick Maher Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“I suppose it was a six-year gap, in Tipperary you want to be winning it every year so six years is a long time.

“I think this year they really hit home how these things don’t happen very often and you need to take it as much as you can. Look, there’s a great maturity in our panel, we’re not resting on our laurels after one year.

“We’re parking this year and looking to next year and giving it another rattle again.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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