NOT since 1955 have Tipperary won a hurling and football minor double. This year however the Premier did so in real style with seven members of William Maher’s squad adding a minor hurling medal to the football one gleamed from under the noses of the Kerry men just seven days previously.
At the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday, July 8th Cashel’s Dylan Fitzelle captained the minor footballers to provincial honours and was joined on the hurling panel by dual stars Steven O’Brien (Ballina), Jack Shelly (Mullinahone), John McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Jack Loughnane (Kildangan) and Jimmy Maher (Clonoulty-Rossmore). Then, of course, there is Bill Maher.
Last week the Tipperary Star named the Kilsheelan-Kilcash man as their man of the match in the football decider. And, this week Maher, who also captained the minor hurling team, was a most obvious contender for man of the match in Sunday’s famous win over Clare.
“It was a great win,” a delighted Bill Maher told the Tipperary Star.
“The weather wasn’t great, but in the conditions it was a good, tough battle. We were lucky to come out and beat them in the end.”
Following a superb first half display Tipperary led 1-10 to 1-4 at the break, but, and as you would expect, Clare fought back manfully in the second.
“They did and in fairness they were a little unlucky,” Bill Maher said.
“There were one or turning points, little frees and that that went in our favour and we were just lucky in the end really. On the day a few of our points were taken and they missed a few frees. That swung it in our favour there towards the end.”
And, Bill Maher was delighted to represent his club Kilsheelan-Kilcash on the Munster final stage: “I don’t think there was ever a captain (of the Tipperary minor team) from a junior hurling club, well not from Kilsheelan anyway, but coming from a junior hurling club it does mean a lot. And, hopefully this will spur on a few more of them to get up to this level”.
If Bill Maher had anyone to challenge him in terms of being crowned last Sunday’s outstanding performer it had to be his midfield partner John McGrath. The Loughmore-Castleiney man fired 0-7 in all.
“I suppose to win the two of them in the one week is a fair achievement,” John McGrath said.
“The way the boys are after managing us through the year has been super.
“We put in a serious effort and although we faded a small bit out there today we still dug deep and that just shows the character in the team.”
John McGrath made light of the difficult conditions when firing four terrific points from play.
“I suppose it was a bit wet and greasy there now, but it was the same for both teams,” John McGrath said.
“We didn’t have it over them. It was the same conditions for both teams and thankfully we got through it in the end. It was great.”
Tipperary minor hurling captain Bill Maher lifts the cup. Photo: Bridget Delaney