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Tipp star McGrath hails first championship start in 20 months after winning cancer fight

Noel McGrath hadn’t started a senior championship game for Tipp since September 2014 until he lined out against Cork on Sunday.

Image: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

SUNDAY’S MUNSTER SHC quarter-final victory over Cork was a landmark afternoon for Noel McGrath.

It was the Loughmore-Castleiney star’s first championship start for Tipperary since September 2014, when he lined out in the All-Ireland final replay against Kilkenny.

McGrath successfully fought testicular cancer last year and came off the bench to a rapturous reception against Galway at Croke Park last August.

But Sunday was McGrath’s first championship start in 20 months and while he didn’t finish the game after coming off injured, the 2010 All-Ireland winner insisted that he’s in no danger of missing the provincial semi-final against Limerick on 19 June.

McGrath said: “Nothing major, just a dead leg. I’ll be ready in a few days to go again.”

The 25-year-old forward clipped over two points during last Sunday’s tussle and his return to Munster championship fare for the first time since June 2014 proved a winning one.

I didn’t play any (2015) Munster championship and the boys did a serious job then so I was mad to get back in the action, mad to give my all the last few weeks to be out on the field and thankfully I did.

“It’s all game on again now for Limerick.

“There’s going to be 35 lads pushing for places again on the 15 and the 26 and that’s the way you want it to be. It’s great to be involved in that.”

Tipp managed to put their Allianz League quarter-final defeat to Clare firmly behind them with a clinical demolition job on Cork and McGrath acknowledged that there had been a significant shift in mindset since the Ennis setback.

Noel McGrath with Cormac Murphy Noel McGrath gets past Cork's Cormac Murphy. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

“We were disappointed with the League but when championship comes it’s a different story altogether.

We were looking at the Cork game as a massive game and one in which we just wanted to get a result in. The conditions weren’t easy for either side but we’re just delighted to come out of it and move onto the Munster semi-final.

“We wanted to go as well as we could in the League but at the end of the day when championship comes around it’s all forgotten about and you just want to get that going.

“Nobody will remember the League quarter-final at the end of the year. We just have to push on now and we’re looking forward to the Limerick game already.”

Brendan Bugler and Noel McGrath Noel McGrath and Tipperary have moved on from their League exit at the hands of Clare. Source: Lorraine OÕSullivan/INPHO

Tipp beat Limerick comprehensively at the Gaelic Grounds in last year’s Munster semi-final but in the previous two seasons, the Shannonsiders won on home soil and in Thurles when the counties met.

McGrath is aware of the recent history between the sides and he reflected: “We’ll regroup and have four weeks to the Limerick game and in that time I’m sure we’ll have a good look at them. It’ll be another massive challenge.

“We’ve played Limerick the last few years and they’ve turned us over twice so it will be a serious challenge, them coming to Thurles.

“It’s another game for us to play and we’re just delighted to be involved in big games like that.”

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