Former Tipperary star Pádraic Maher impressed by ‘comfortable’ Clare

‘There are certain times you have to avoid all the chaos in the middle of the pitch and just get it into the full-forward line’

Former Tipperary hurler Pádraic Maher is reminding people to sign up to Darkness into Light, the annual fundraising event organised by Pieta and supported by Electric Ireland. Photograph: Dan Sheridan/Inpho

Pádraic Maher’s first instinct – obviously – is to be concerned for his own county, but he also found time to be impressed by Tipperary’s opponents Clare, who won convincingly in Thurles last weekend on their first outing in the Munster hurling championship round-robin.

The much-decorated former hurler, whose shock announcement of injury-enforced retirement was a desperate setback for new Tipp manager Colm Bonnar, had been encouraged by the county's first-round display against Waterford but that impression faded a week later.

"They [Tipp] just looked a bit lost on the pitch and Clare came in for their first game and I felt they looked very comfortable. They looked like they were structurally well set up, they were tight at the back, and John Conlon was sitting back there and he was able to mop up a lot of ball.

“They looked like they knew what they were supposed to be doing and where they were supposed to be at, and I just felt that they looked a lot more dangerous.


“To me Clare look like a team that are going to be hard to beat in the championship and as regards Tipp, it’s disappointing all right, but as I said to the Tipp public when I finished up, they need to be a bit patient as well. There’s a lot of changes there, and it’s very difficult to try and change it all so quickly, but hopefully that will come in time.”

On Sunday, Clare take on Cork in a repeat of last year's All-Ireland second-round qualifier, which Clare narrowly lost. This time around Clare have momentum and Cork whatever the opposite is. Furthermore, the match is back in Thurles because Ed Sheeran is playing Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which has necessitated Cork moving elsewhere.

Critical voices

Maher joins the critical voices in assessing Cork’s display against Limerick in their first round, which ended in a thumping and failure to play to their most conspicuous strength, the shooting ability of their forwards.

“The Cork style at the moment, I wouldn’t be a fan of it – it’s not really hurling. It’s over and back the pitch. It’s not recycling. The forwards they have, fair enough, play it through the lines up to a certain point of the pitch but then give your forwards good quality ball, good quick ball, that’s what they’re crying out for.

“There’s certain times – we did it in the first half of the Munster final last year – you have to avoid all the chaos in the middle of the pitch and just get it into the full-forward line. You work it up to, as we used to call it, the ‘retention zone’ on the pitch.

“Usually that’s between the 45 and 65 so get it up as far as there, through the lines in whatever way you want, but from there then the forwards want quick ball.

“I wouldn’t be totally gone on the short style of the passing but I think there is a place for it in the game, but I think you can marry that with a bit more direct ball into your forward line as well.

“That’s where Cork are getting caught at the moment, and even Tipp got caught last week. Maybe they’re trying to overdo it too much where at times there were opportunities to hit that 100-yard ball into space to some forward.”

He makes the point that countering Limerick is difficult for all teams, trying to adapt their playing style because the champions are so practised at this stage.

Tipperary’s Michael Breen and John Conlon of Clare during the Munster senior hurling championship, round two, at Semple Stadium, Co Tipperary. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

“In fairness, Limerick are in their fifth year along the road of that.”

One of the differences between teams, he says, is the number of balls that need to be sent into a team’s attack, and points out that Cork forwards have to show more often to get serviceable deliveries.


"If you're Séamus Callanan or if you're a John McGrath, one or two runs is all you should make and then the ball is delivered to you, whereas if you take Patrick Horgan now or someone, Shane Kingston, they're probably making three, four or five runs and then the ball is still not coming into them.

“I know from marking some of the Limerick lads they make one or two runs and that ball is delivered in from a certain point of the pitch. They know once the run is being made that they’re going to get it so it comes down to coaching and repeating it day in, day out.”

These days Maher is finding alternative recreational pursuits. Running is compromised by the body he developed to play hurling. “I need to lose a few pounds and take pressure off the joints.”

He’s also reviving an interest in golf, which he abandoned years ago to pursue his intercounty career, and taking first steps into punditry. He was in Walsh Park when Tipperary opened their championship against Waterford.

At first he was preoccupied with getting ready for the broadcast.

“But when the lads ran out on the pitch for a warm-up it kind of hit me. It was a bit of a shock. I don’t know what kind of feeling I got but it was weird, butterfly feeling that you’d love to be running out with them but as soon as the ball was thrown in it was gone.”

- Pádraic Maher was helping to launch Darkness Into Light, the annual fundraising event organised by Pieta and supported by Electric Ireland, for 2022.

Seán Moran

Seán Moran

Seán Moran is GAA Correspondent of The Irish Times