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'Do you want your girlfriend lifting you off the couch?' - The warning that forced Maher to retire

The three-time All-Ireland winner has been medically advised to step away from contact sport.

TIPPERARY STAR HURLER Pádraic Maher says that his decision to retire from the sport was made to ensure a greater quality of life going forward.

padraic-maher Paudie Maher on the ball for Tipperary. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The three-time All-Ireland winner made the shock announcement during the week, saying that he had received medical advice to step away from contact sport due to a neck injury.

Maher had previously indicated his intentions to return for a 14th season with the Premier County, but will now be bringing the curtain down on his decorated career with both Tipperary and his club Thurles Sarsfields.

Speaking to the media today, the six-time All-Star elaborated on some of the details of his neck injury. He began by explaining how he was prompted to seek medical advice after he mistook some headaches and neck pain for possible having Covid-19 symptoms.

“I still have to meet one or two more lads about it to determine how old it is but at the moment from what I know I only got the symptoms from around the time of the county final when my neck was at me and I was getting a few headaches.

“That’s when it arose but again it could have been an accumulation of things, I don’t know. That’s why I’m hoping to meet one or two more specialists tomorrow and at the start of next week and hopefully they’ll be able to give me a bit more information as regards how old it is, how it happened, but there is a fair chance from what I told it happened in training or something between the county semi-final and final because the symptoms arose a few days before the county final.

“I said I wasn’t feeling great. At the time, I thought ‘am I getting Covid?’, I didn’t know what was going on. But then we got to the root of it recently and thankfully we did because if the doc didn’t send me for a scan I could be in training and could have been making it a lot worse unbeknownst to myself. Very unlucky but very lucky at the same time.

“So there is a fair chance I took a knock at training, noticed it myself. The way we train with Sarsfields is fairly physical so there is a fair chance I got a knock there and whether it ruptured something then or made an old injury worse I don’t know but hopefully I’ll get a lot of answers in the following weeks.”

Maher added that he was reassured by the doctor that eliminating the risk now means he can look forward to a healthy life away from hurling. He’s also clear to continue working for An Garda Síochána.

All forms of contact sport are no longer available to him, but individual pursuits like running, swimming and cycling are still safe options.

He has also recently opened the Heyday coffee house in Thurles with his Tipp team-mate Séamus Callanan, which will give him a new focus.

“He [the doctor] only listed off what the damage could be,” says Maher, “especially when you are working in the head and neck area, he put it to me, do you want your girlfriend lifting you off the couch to put you to bed every night? It was that extreme so when he started talking like that, I said, this is a fairly black and white decision for me.

“Thankfully, the risk has been taken away, please God, and with the bit of guidance from the medics going forward I will have a perfectly healthy life to live.

“It’s going to be some void to fill alright, being gone four or five nights a week and building up to big games at the weekend. So it’s going to be strange.

“I don’t know if I can be twisting or turning or moving my neck too sharply but there’s still loads for me to do between work and the coffee shop.”

ronan-maher-and-padraic-maher-lift-the-liam-maccarthy-cup Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Maher departs as one of Tipperary’s greatest ever players, who won three senior All-Ireland titles throughout the course of a decade. He also enjoyed success at underage level and was part of an exciting group of emerging talents that broke through to the senior ranks in 2010.

He added that the outpouring of appreciation for his contribution to hurling has been “amazing” and that he didn’t expect the huge volume of messages.

Tipperary will get their Division 1B campaign underway this weekend when they travel to face Laois in Portlaoise. Maher’s brother Ronan is still a key player for the county, and he wants to get started on adjusting to the role of supporter.

“I’m actually thinking this morning I might go down to Portlaoise to get it out of the system. It will be strange alright but get to the first one or two games and I’ll be as much a supporter as anyone.

“Ronan is involved there as well and I need to support him as well and yeah, sure, we’ll see we might go down to Portlaoise on Saturday evening and a few pints on the way home. Life has changed a lot in the last few days, it’s very strange.”

– First published 13.59, 3 February

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