Pádraic Maher in sight of Tipperary All Star hurling record
Winning sixth accolade would put him on par with Nicky English and Eoin Kelly
Tipperary’s Pádraic Maher in action with Billy Ryan of Kilkenny in the All-Ireland Senior Championship final, at Croke Park, in August. Photograph: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
“I didn’t even know that, to be honest,” says Pádraic Maher, reliably informed a sixth hurling All Star award this week would put him on the same record pedestal as Nicky English and Eoin Kelly.
“Two of the finest names in the history of Tipperary hurling,” he adds.
“It’s always nice to be recognised, if you’re lucky enough to win one. I’d be proud of any of the ones I’ve managed to get, no doubt about that.
“At the end of the day, it’s all about the team but any player would be lying if he was asked ‘are you proud?’. There are only 15 players picked every year, and if you’re lucky enough, you have to cherish it, be very proud.”
Maher is one of 11 players from Tipperary’s All-Ireland winning team to be nominated, along with his brother Ronan, the winning selection to be announced on Thursday morning, before the 2019 All Star football is named live from the presentation banquet on Friday night.
Still only 30, Maher’s previous All Star awards came in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2016, 2017, and given the way 2018 ended (Tipperary failed to advance from the round-robin phase the Munster championships) he certainly didn’t start out 2019 with any thoughts about winning that Tipperary record-equalling number six.
“Certainly not. You’re just thinking how can we get back successful as a team? I think we have been lucky enough we had Liam Sheedy at the start of our career and then Eamon O’Shea and Mick Ryan, they are good lads to have over us and are very well respected within Tipp. They keep you on your toes.
“And I suppose it’s easy to keep coming back when you are not successful, it would be different if you had five or six All-Irelands you might slacken off or something like that but when you are being beaten in big matches I think it is easier to come back because you are trying to right the wrongs.
“Unfortunately we were beaten in a few finals and we were very determined to make it up and it is getting even harder now the last few years the round robin every week you are asked to go the well and that makes winning the All-Ireland even more sweeter, it’s gone so competitive now you can actually say four or five teams can win the All Ireland at the start of the year.”
Speaking at the announcement that Littlewoods Ireland were extending their sponsorship of the hurling championships until 2022, Maher admits that his third All-Ireland is as sweet as his first; the last Tipperary player to win three was Declan Ryan, in 2001.
“I didn’t even think of the Declan Ryan one until someone said it to us in the Palace Bar on the Monday morning after the last game. But you have to cherish them all especially when you are coming to the end of your career, we have seen the lows so you definitely cherish them. A lot of lads would kill for one medal so we are lucky to have three and we will give everything we can to get another one.
“It’s not even that it was just so long since we had won since 2010 that for the four or five of us there and then not winning to 2016 we are relishing them now more and when you have been beaten in a lot of finals and big games you do actually cherish the third one even more so.
“And when you are getting older you have seen before what you have went through the highs and the lows and I think it is nearly more enjoyable now more than anything because you are coming towards the end of your career, so it is as sweet as any of them, the third one.”
Since 1971, when the scheme was first inaugurated, Tipperary have also won 97 awards, thus set to surpass the 100 mark this week; Séamus Callanan is also in line to win hurler of the year.
A Garda based in Limerick, though still living in Thurles, Maher also boasts the impressive record of only missing some 20 minutes of championship hurling: the only thing missing now is a back-to-back.
“In other years, 2010 and 2016, from my own experience, there would have been a lot of emphasis on doing back to back, it was ‘back to back’ but I don’t think you can look at that now. That’s very easy for me to say now but I just think from looking back on my own experience if you’re going to put that pressure on yourself from the start of the year, it’s going to be a long year. You’re going to drain yourself out, mentally and physically.
“We’ll just go back there and I think the most important thing from my experience is that we train even harder if we can at all, as much if not more than this year. If you’d asked me, watching Limerick win last year, watching Galway win the year before, we would have trained extra hard to come back and try to knock them off their perch. Other teams will be trying to do that to us after this year. We just have to make sure our own house is in order and we’ll be leaving no stone unturned.” With Liam involved, that’s for sure.