'You think nothing is going to harm you. But then you see real life experience and it hits home'

Three-time All-Ireland winner Pádraic Maher discusses the distressing events he has witnessed as a Garda.

THERE WAS A time when Pádraic Maher immersed himself entirely in hurling. 

littlewoods-ireland-gaa-sponsorship-renewal Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE

His life was saturated by the sport, to the point where he would decline certain job opportunities if they couldn’t accommodate his hurling commitments.

He was in his early 20s and making his way through the early stages of his career in the Guards. The Thurles Sarsfields defender never envisaged a time when he would ever relent from his obsession with hurling.

As he sits in front of the media in 2019, almost three months after collecting his third All-Ireland title, his sense of perspective has certainly changed.  

“You can’t shape your whole life to playing inter-county hurling,” he responds when asked if future inter-county players should consider living at home in order to lengthen their careers.

“I don’t think that’s any way healthy.”

Maher is currently stationed in Moyross in Limerick where he works as a Community Guard. He was previously working in Limerick city centre, although the hours were more of a struggle for him then.

His new post has enabled him to find a better balance between his job and his hectic schedule with Tipperary. 

The natural hurling rivalry between his native county and the Shannonsiders creates an interesting dynamic for Maher, but the relaxed attitudes towards sport among the Moyross locals ensures that it’s always in good spirit.

He’s even planning to bring the Liam MacCarthy cup there for a visit in the next few weeks.

padraic-maher-with-the-liam-mccarthy-cup Pádraic Maher holding the Liam MacCarthy Cup after defeating Kilkenny in the All-Ireland final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“We’ll say nothing,” he smiles. “We won’t gloat too much. A lot could change in 12 months.

“They’re the grandest, they’re the finest.” 

But that’s the lighter side of his profession. There’s a much more difficult element of the job that Maher has had to face at times in his career, and those distressing events have helped him reshape his view of the world.

When you put it all into context, hurling doesn’t seem so important anymore.

“You’d be living in kind of a bubble where you think nothing is going to harm you,” Maher begins.

You think you’re up on a pedestal and everyone is different. But then you go out and you see real life experience like that, it hits home, because you want to be enjoying this and getting the most out of it while you can because you think losing an All-Ireland final is the worst thing of all time.

“But there’s people 10 times worse than the feeling you’re feeling after a game like that. Look you take little setbacks in your sporting life. I wouldn’t have said that seven or eight years ago.

It kind of just brings you into the real world more… see what you’re dealing with, what families go through, what people go through in your lives. You’re just saying to yourself, I’ve no worries really.”

Those experiences are difficult to process. It would certainly be understandable if Maher struggled with that aspect of his job, but he has learned to separate himself from those situations when they arise.

Hurling can help with that, but the inter-county game is no picnic either. Maher has often found that work offers him a sanctuary from the pressures of sport.

“After you come across one or two scenarios in the job, it just becomes second nature. Like any job, it’s like the teacher, going in teaching the children in school, it just becomes second nature to them at this stage. We’ve a job to do, and you just need to get on with it.

“The job can take your mind off hurling [too].

You need to have that balance. Seven or eight years ago, I would have been all consumed into hurling. Maybe that’s not healthy or good for you.”

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james-barry-lifts-the-liam-maccarthy-cup James Barry announced his retirement from the Tipperary hurlers last week. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Tipperary has been hit by some high-profile retirements recently, with James Barry and Donagh Maher both calling time on their careers with the Premier county ahead of the new campaign.

Liam Sheedy’s charges will be aiming to defend their All-Ireland crown in 2020, although Maher deflects all talk away from that, and stresses that the opening Munster SHC match against Waterford is their only focus for now.

People have doubted the more seasoned members of the Tipp squad in the past, but at 30 years of age, Maher admits that he’s approaching the latter stages of his time in a Tipperary jersey.

The losses in personnel inspire him to chase down whatever success awaits him in the final years of his career, but he has plenty of experience behind him to know that he must appreciate everything he has so far.

“It makes you enjoy it and relish it even more because you know that you’re not going to be there for too much longer yourself.

I suppose that makes it more enjoyable and makes you relish the challenge ahead more than anything. Because, you know, people have their own things going on in their own life that make them make these decisions.

“You can’t be looking too far ahead, you have to take it one step at a time for the likes of myself.”

Pádraic Maher was speaking at the renewal of Littlewoods Ireland’s sponsorship of the GAA All-Ireland Hurling Championship, the Littlewoods Ireland Camogie Leagues and the GAA Go Games. 

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