Premier County All-Star John McGrath looks to inspire Loughmore Castleiney to famous win
Tipperary's John McGrath has had no trouble coming back down to earth after the Premier County's All-Ireland hurling win in September.
McGrath, for his troubles, even picked up a very first All-Star to put the gloss on an already sparkling season. But as the days grow darker and the weather worsens, the 22-year-old has braced himself for the much less glamorous side of the club championships.
"It was a wonderful night in Dublin," the Loughmore Castleiney clubman tells Newstalk.com. "It’s nice to get one but at the same time it’s great to get our All-Ireland. It’s nice to be recognised and everyone in the club was delighted for me.
"The club have been very good to me through the years by supporting me. They can take some recognition for that as well. But look, that’s in the past and we’ll focus on the next task at hand."
The task at hand refers to Kerry champions Dr Crokes this Sunday in Killarney, against a side which features the likes of Eoin Brosnan and Colm 'Gooch' Cooper.
Crokes clinched their 11th county title with a comfortable nine point victory over Kilmurry-Ibricknane at the end of October and have displayed their dominance in the early stages of the provincial championship.
Image: ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
"They’re a supremely talented bunch, and they’ll be favourites to go a long way in Munster and the All-Ireland. A few years ago when we went down to play them, we were going well but just after half-time they got on top.
"We don’t have anything to lose because they’re heavy favourites, and rightly so because they have such a good record over the last few years.
"The first county title we won, we ended up getting beaten by Dr Crokes in the Munster Club Championship. The second one we won was delayed, we only got to play it on St Stephen’s Day. We didn’t get to participate in Munster at all."
The Tipperary county champions have made it this far with impressive victories over Clonmel Commercials and Moyle Rovers, sides McGrath believes give them the confidence to challenge their status as underdogs.
"They would be two teams of a very good standing. Whenever you play good quality teams like that, you learn from the game. I suppose you’re testing yourself against good opposition, and that’ll only stand to us on Sunday.
"You saw how Commercials went last year, and to be able to compete and beat them - as well as Moyle Rovers - it shows that if we can reproduce that level of performance you’re in with a shout."
Loughmore edged Moyle Rovers in the county final, with Cian Hennessy's goal proving decisive. The performance, while good, showed shortcomings in their failure to maintain their scoring rate in the second half.
"When you get into a lead like that, it is kind of hard to push on, especially in a final. It might be that bit more tense. Nobody wants to make mistakes that will cost their team.
Image: Cian Hennessy in action against Cahir. ©INPHO/Donall Farmer
"But we were playing good opposition. We were never going to get it easy and we weren’t going to be able to dominate for the whole game. We’ll have our good patches and bad patches on Sunday, so it’s about making the most of our good patches."
Hennessy will be unavailable for this weekend's clash, but McGrath insists there is enough quality in the panel to fill the void left in the forward line.
"He’ll be a loss but look, one of the lads will come in and they’ll be well able to do the job.
"We’ve got a couple of different players around the field like Liam McGrath or Liam Treacy, who are well able to kick scores. It will just be someone else stepping in and they’ll have to get up to the speed of it.
"We feel like we’ve got a very talented squad and a lot of lads have played underage and senior with Tipperary, so we know we have the capabilities to be able to compete with the likes of Crokes."