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'I don't think we were all that modern and he pulled us into the 21st century' - Galway help for Tipp success

Portumna native Johnny Kelly steered Borris-Ileigh to success on Sunday.

IT WAS A Tipperary title secured in the county’s hurling home but the Galway influence in Borris-Ileigh’s victory on Sunday was readily acknowledged.

borris-ileighs-players-celebrate-at-the-final-whistle Paddy Stapleton and his Borris-Ileigh team-mates celebrate at the final whistle Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Paddy Stapleton, a Tipperary All-Ireland winner and one of the more experienced figures in their ranks, cherished his first county senior medal in Borris-Ileigh colours.

The influence of manager Johnny Kelly, well-versed in club triumphs with his native Portumna and Offaly’s Coolderry, was key to the North Tipperary club ending a 33-year barren spell.

“Sometimes I felt we were inching closer but I never thought we were on the cusp of this. To be fair when Johnny came, he had a changed mindset. He had won a lot of things. I saw him win with Coolderry, Portumna, other teams.

“He’d a lot of experience and a very modern way of hurling. I don’t think we were all that modern and he pulled us into the 21st century. We’ve loads to improve on, we’ve loads of things we’re not good at but he gets the best out of what he has I think.

“I think it (their 2017 final appearance) took a lot of the mystique away, didn’t it? If you’re not in it for 30 years, none of the players knew how to react. I know myself and Brendan (Maher) and Dan (McCormack) played big matches but it’s not really the same.

“You’re bringing young lads with you, we’d four U21s, with very little experience of playing against Sarsfields a couple of years ago. Now we have a couple of U21s but Dan and Conor and Niall, they all have a couple of years experience up there in the forward line so I think it really helped.

“Johnny (Kelly) knows us better. That was one year, we were going from nobodies to a county final. Johnny knows us, knows what we’re good at, knows definitely what we’re not good at. I think Sunday was probably our best performance, he timed it well.”

borris-ileigh-team-celebrates-victory Borris-Ileigh players celebrating their county senior final win over Kiladangan. Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO

Stapleton could sense the lift this victory will give a community which was hit hard by a series of tragic losses over the past 15 months. His own sister Amanda passed away last May.

“The benefit game (a year) on Sunday and Amanda passed away six months ago yesterday. It was on my mind all day and this morning. Ah sure look, the five people that have passed away tragically since August last year, it was heavy on the heart this week with all of them to be honest.

“Maybe it felt like we had 20 on the field today at times, we were able to get around. I don’t know, I never really believed in coincidences before but a lot of things, crazy stuff, coincidences happening over the next six, ten, twelve months so I don’t know. It was a very, very weird week.

“Just relief and excitement and delight and can’t wait to go home to Borris and enjoy it and give them back something because we had a hard time, the parish had a hard time.

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“It’s not just for myself. There’s a lot of parents here today who are going through a bit of misery and heartache. It never makes up for anything, it doesn’t, it’s totally different.

“I’m just delighted to be able to put smiles on people’s faces and obviously my own as well.”

For a club with a storied history after producing four Liam MacCarthy Cup winning captains and an All-Ireland club title in 1987, the current Borris-Ileigh group have secured their own major feat.

“I suppose every time you go into Stapleton’s in Borris, you see the photo of the ’87 All-Ireland team. I suppose it’s nice to have our own history.

“It mightn’t be what they have but certainly we’d only six county titles before and to be the seventh team to ever win one feels class, feels unbelievable.”

Now they’ll get set for their own Munster adventure which will begin next Sunday against Cork side Glen Rovers.

paddy-stapleton-and-cathal-barrett-with-patrick-horgan Tipperary's Paddy Stapleton (left) in action against Cork's Patrick Horgan in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“They’re a very good team, I saw them on RTÉ this year and I saw them in person last year actually down in Cork. They’ve a couple of star players but it’s not that you’ve nothing to lose because that means you think you won’t go anywhere but the monkey’s off your back, you can go out and enjoy your hurling.

“We’d had a successful year but we’ll drive it on. We won’t think about that now until Wednesday maybe.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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