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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 24 February 2021

'People ended up sitting on the sidelines': When Tipp halted an 85-year losing streak in Cork

Former Premier County midfielder Shane McGrath chats on the penultimate episode of our Life Changing Moments podcast series with UPMC – the Official Healthcare Partner of the GAA/GPA.

WE’VE TEAMED UP with UPMC – Official Healthcare Partner of the GAA/GPA – to produce a brand new Life Changing Moments podcast series.

Over an eight-week period, legendary former GAA players will open up about key performances that helped shape their illustrious careers and change their lives – on and off the pitch. 

SHANE MCGRATH WAS a driving force in Tipperary’s midfield for a decade. 

By the time the Ballinahinch clubman hung up his inter-county boots in 2015, he had racked up a senior All-Ireland medal, five Munster titles, one league title and two All-Star awards. 

The 2010 All-Ireland final, when the Premier County put a halt to Kilkenny’s ‘drive-for-five’ to lift Liam McCarthy, is unquestionably a career highlight for McGrath. 

However, he believes the previous year’s final — when Munster champions Tipp lost out to Brian Cody’s Cats — was in fact a better match. 

And the moment that McGrath has pinpointed as having the biggest impact on his career for our penultimate episode is from a Munster semi-final meeting with Cork at a packed Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 2008.

kevin-canty-and-shane-mcgrath Shane McGrath with Cork's Kevin Canty close by during the 2008 Munster semi-final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

“Whatever happened on that day, whether they over-sold it or under-estimated the crowd that was coming, people ended up having to sit on the sidelines,” McGrath remembers.

“It really harped back to the glory days of the 1990s when people were on the sidelines and running out to players before the match was over. That was my first and only experience of that.

“It was the first big championship test for us as a group under Liam Sheedy. We were going down to Cork and hadn’t won there in 85 years. Now it wasn’t that we played down there 80 times, it was just how the championship games fell.

“For me, on a personal level, it was a test. It was my third year on Tipp panel so I said ‘You’re either going to be good enough here or you’re not’. What a test it was too against Tom Kenny and Jerry O’Connor — one of the best midfield partnerships of all time.” 

And McGrath stood up to be counted that afternoon — playing his part to end the long-running losing streak as Tipp prevailed 1-19 to 1-13. 

There were a lot of thoughts in the head going down on the bus,” he adds. “Sheedy would be one of the main factors, he had us so ready that we had no choice but to perform — and we did. 

“It was just a great feeling. We were saying to the rest of the country that we’re a good group, and it went fine for me too. I got on a few balls, got on the scoresheet and took real confidence from that day.” 

Over the course of the chat, McGrath goes into more detail about the influence of Sheedy, sings Eoin Kelly’s praises as the greatest hurler he played alongside and also tells a funny yarn about an U21 match from 2004.

For the full interview, click the Soundcloud button at the top of the article or subscribe to The42 wherever you get your podcasts.

Source: Borris-Ileigh GAA Club/YouTube

UPMC, Official Healthcare Partner of the GAA/GPA, has been providing expert healthcare in the South East since 2006. UPMC’s operations in Ireland include UPMC Whitfield Hospital in Waterford, UPMC Kildare Hospital in Clane, the UPMC Carlow Outreach Centre, UPMC Hillman Cancer Centre radiotherapy with locations at UPMC Whitfield and in Cork, and the UPMC Concussion Network. For more information on how UPMC provides life changing medicine to communities across Ireland, visit www.upmc.ie

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