Experience of cricket world an eye-opener for Brendan Maher

Tipp hurler joined Adelaide Strikers as part of ‘The Toughest Trade’ documentary series

 Brendan Maher at Leinster Cricket Club, Rathmines, ahead of AIB’s ‘The Toughest Trade’ documentary series. Episode one  is aired on RTE2 tonight at at 9.55pm. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

Brendan Maher at Leinster Cricket Club, Rathmines, ahead of AIB’s ‘The Toughest Trade’ documentary series. Episode one is aired on RTE2 tonight at at 9.55pm. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

 

The last thing Brendan Maher expected to learn from professional athletes was their sense of fun. Part of it came from the realisation most GAA players take themselves too seriously, although for Maher it’s also reinforced his love of hurling.

Indeed Maher didn’t know what to expect before his recent trip to Australia to train with the Adelaide Strikers, given he’d never even held a cricket bat before in his life.

The experience – captured in the AIB documentary series The Toughest Trade – has clearly left a lasting impression on the Tipperary captain and the hope is it might enlighten a few of the so-called diehards – and not just players.

“One of the main things I took out of it is that in most GAA teams, training is very serious,” says Maher. “Everything is like ‘you can’t laugh or you can’t smile’ nearly. And I just noticed that in the warm-ups for the cricket training it was all laughing and joking, very relaxed. And I was thinking ‘maybe we should have that approach a little bit more in the GAA’, that you bring a little more element of fun into your sessions.

“In hurling, you’re also getting yourself psyched up, and it’s very intense in the dressing room, where cricket is more tactical and talking about things.

“So it was something very alien to what I’m used to, completely different to the GAA.

“The whole approach is far more relaxed. Maybe that’s the way it is with professional sport. They’re at it every day so maybe they’re naturally more relaxed anyway.

“Before the game I was at, in the dressing room, it was just all conversations going on. There was no big speech. It was different. So overall a very enjoyable experience.”

Amateur guidelines

“I wouldn’t say the fun is lost but I would say there has been a change. You see the club scene at home as well, you talk about the AIB club championship, and how tough that has gone. The standard of training is after sky-rocketing. In fairness to our manager and our management team at the club, there are very much for that side of things, bring an element of fun into it, make sure that everyone is happy . ..

“ I was ever over a team it would be something that I’d be conscious of, after having that experience. But there isn’t much I would change about the GAA, that’s another thing I took away.”

The experience of training with the Adelaide players also made Maher realise just how dedicated most GAA players actually are: “Yeah, they couldn’t believe the dedication, how much we train. I was going through my typical week and they couldn’t believe it. Then the way we’d only have a championship game every four or five weeks.

“And one of the things that came up is that they would have a few beers after each game, or if there was a barbecue a few days before the game, and they were all there with their coach having the few beers.

“I said there’s no way we’d do this in the GAA, that if you had a beer two or three months before a game you’d nearly be lambasted for it. But to be honest, if that was the culture of the GAA, I don’t think I’d do it anyway. It just kind of annoys you that you could be in a pub having a Lucozade and someone comes up and says ‘what are you doing here?’, that you can’t even be seen out in a social setting with your friends. And it could be half nine on a Friday night. You get that quite a bit.”

For Maher, a primary school teacher at Loughmore National School in Tipperary specialising in pupils with special needs, the experience in Adelaide has also given him a thorough appreciation for cricket. His great grandfather Denis Treacy played cricket, when, before there was any GAA played in Borrisoleigh, there were three cricket clubs in the area.

Lot different

The Toughest Trade

“After the first hour of cricket, I was thinking this is going to be a lot different than I thought it was. The pace they are able to throw the ball. And the concentration levels have to be massive, especially for the one day. Mentally, it’s very challenging. I didn’t find it difficult, physically, it was just the concentration, ‘am I standing in the right place?’ But you’ll have to watch the show to see how I got on.”

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