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John McGrath: 'At the start of the year I know what I'm signing myself up for and getting into'

The Tipperary hurler has no qualms with the level of commitment required of an inter-county hurler.

Tipp hurler John McGrath at the Electric Ireland GAA Higher Education Championships First Class Rivals Launch.
Tipp hurler John McGrath at the Electric Ireland GAA Higher Education Championships First Class Rivals Launch.
Image: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

HE IS SET to commit himself to the Tipperary hurling cause as another campaign beckons but John McGrath has no qualms in doing so at a time when the demands on inter-county players continue to escalate.

The life of an elite GAA player has again come under the spotlight of late with McGrath’s former Tipperary team-mate Kieran Bergin criticising the treatment of players by coaches in an interview in The Star newspaper last weekend.

But 2016 All-Ireland winner McGrath is comfortable with what being a Tipperary hurler entails as they prepare to commence their 2018 season.

“I suppose the game has got more professional, 10 years ago a couple of teams took it up a level, to try to compete and since then it has just gone up and up.

“For myself I only live ten minutes out from Thurles for training and that so it is not as big a commitment for guys working and who might have to travel over an hour or that to training. It is intense, it is tough going at times,.

“But at the start of the year I know what I’m signing myself up for and getting into. I’m happy enough that I have planned for hopefully next August that we will be kept going and be busy four or five days a week. If we are successful at the end of the year it won’t bother me at all.”

Hailing from a successful club like Loughmore-Castleiney, where football and hurling receive an equal allocation interest and time, ensures McGrath, a 2011 All-Ireland minor football winner, is tested all the more.

Despite the pressures of playing with Tipperary, he hopes a situation does not arise where he has to neglect playing with his club.

John McGrath celebrates scoring the first goal John McGrath celebrates scoring Tipperary's first goal in last August's All-Ireland semi-final against Galway. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“If it stays increasing the way it is maybe it is something that will have to be looked at, but personally I wouldn’t be in favour of it.

“I love going back playing with my club. We play hurling and football, if that happened it that would take away a lot from me.

“I love going back playing with all of the lads I grew up with. Even playing football is a nice little change from the hurling, it freshens things up as well.

“I hope it doesn’t come to anything like that.”

McGrath admits it was a difficult time for players in the Tipperary squad when rumours circulated last summer about the personal lives of some players but they learned to laugh it off.

“Thankfully I wasn’t actually involved in any of them, but I know for the lads that were it can’t have been nice. Even there was people in their personal lives dragged into it, people who have absolutely nothing to do with Tipperary hurling to an extent.

“That kind of thing can be tough for lads, but after a while between ourselves you were able to have a bit of a laugh about it and were able to get over it. That is always going to happen.

“It is just part and parcel of it that rumours are going to go around. You just have to get on with it, and while it is not easy at times you just have to suck it up and take it on the chin.”

Electric Ireland GAA Higher Education Championships First.Class.Rivals Launch Kyle Hayes and John McGrath will both be in Fitzgibbon Cup action together for UL this year. Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

The 2018 championship will present an entirely different challenge for the Tipperary squad with four Munster outings on successive weekends awaiting them in the summer.

The importance of a panel well-stocked with options will come into sharp focus.

“You are going to need a strong panel, if you pick up an injury you could easily miss the next three games or whatever it is.

“It is going to be hugely important to get everyone fit. Freshness is a big one too, that you can get back up to 100% the following week.

“Whether the set up of playing every week will be the best way for it, I don’t know, but the more games you get the better, the more championship games especially, I think that is what players really want.

“We have about 35 lads in at the moment so it is important whatever our final number ends up at that everyone is ready. You mightn’t be playing one week, but through different things you could be straight into the starting team the next week.

“The panel this year is probably more important than it ever was. It gets more players involved and more lads probably feel they are going to get their chance. That is great even for training, guys are going to be really pushing.”

McGrath has developed strong interplay in the Tipperary forward line with his older brother Noel and in time his younger brother Brian, the 2016 All-Ireland minor winning captain, may swell the family representation in the senior squad.

Noel McGrath, John McGrath and Brian McGrath celebrate Noel, John and Brian McGrath celebrating Tipperary's 2016 triumphs. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“He is with the U21′s, they are playing a couple of challenge games at the moment. 2016 was a brilliant year the way it worked out with the minors and seniors winning and Brian captaining the minors on the day.

“He is going well, hopefully he will get into the senior panel in the next year or two. I suppose you have to show it at U21 level first to earn the call up. If you do well there you will get your opportunity at senior then.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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