Premier leader determined to point the way to better days
Shane McGrath will lead Tipperary out against Cork tonight at Páirc Uí Rinn in the Allianz hurling league. "I think people forget that we won a Munster title last year. Five, six years ago a Munster title was brilliant." photograph: cathal noonan/inpho
ALLIANZ HURLING LEAGUE Cork v Tipperary:As a new season beckons, Tipperary captain Shane McGrath is ready to consign last year’s travails to history
“Born at a very young age. I’ve never been a millionaire but I know I’d be unreal at it.”
So goes the introductory line on the Twitter profile of the new Tipperary hurling captain. This, you feel, could be where the curtain of the modern dawn is marked as having finally been fully raised.
The marriage of musty, fusty old Tipp hurling and one of Twitter’s foremost GAA wiseasses seems unlikely at first – a post held in the recent past by such pillars of earnestness as Paul Curran and Tommy Dunne being handed to the messer’s messer, Shane McGrath.
But once you swirl it around and tease it out, it makes perfect sense.
Eamon O’Shea has plenty of slings and arrows to duck as he tries to haul Tipperary back to within striking distance of Kilkenny. The stain of last year’s All-Ireland semi-final will take a fair few washes to shift and the environment in which they go about their business in Tipperary won’t be entirely friendly for a while yet. Their first priority must be to get on to the front foot, to give morale a good whizz through the blender and remember that most counties would kill to have their problems.
When it comes to positivity, nobody outbounces the midfielder from Killoscully. Maybe it’s because in a way, he’s not supposed to be here. His club Ballinahinch aren’t senior and by his own estimation aren’t likely to be any time soon.
He was never a child prodigy and didn’t get a sniff of playing county minor. He put in three years with the Tipp intermediate side before his senior debut a couple of months short of his 22nd birthday. You don’t make it from where he was to where he is by lamenting your lot in life.
“I remember when I came into the panel first,” he says. “Eamon Corcoran came over to me and said, ‘Look, just go out and give it a right good go. It doesn’t matter where you’re from, you’re here because you’re good enough.’ I’ll definitely try to do that with one or two of the lads because you can get a bit overwhelmed and maybe forget that. ‘You’re here because you’re good enough’ – that means a lot to someone. It always stuck with me.”
The winter past cleansed his mind too. He’d long planned to take a career break at the end of last summer to go travelling and when the house of cards tumbled around them against Kilkenny, he couldn’t put his hand on his passport quick enough.
Off he went on a loop around South America, Australia and home through Asia. Never put his hand on a hurley, never brought it up in conversation unless somebody else brought it up first.
While home churned and bubbled with the fallout from the toxic spill in Croke Park, he breathed warm air and let the crickets chirp as they liked.