By Brian McDonnell
TOO often the work of corner-backs like Michael Cahill can go unnoticed.
Normally, the Thurles Sarsfields man goes about his business in a quietly-efficient manner, but Cahill conjured one of the moments of the 2011 club championship against Loughmore-Castleiney in a county quarter-final at Semple Stadium, a game the Sars won 3-17 to 2-16.
For all the scores and explosive attacking play - the sides traded 38 scores (4-23 from play) - a Michael Cahill flick remains the outstanding memory from that game.
Right on the hour mark, and with just three between them, Cahill abandoned his man and raced across the face of goal to effect a brilliant tackle on no less than Noel McGrath who had a clear sight of the Thurles goal.
And yet members of the blue and gold public seem determined to question the ability of Tipperary’s outstanding left corner-back. Fortunately, however, Michael Cahill knows that big mouths are only good for one thing: cooling soup.
“You have to ignore it completely,” Michael Cahill told the Tipperary Star.
“It is hard to ignore completely because it’s out there and you are always in the spotlight, but all you can do is try to ignore it. You try to improve every day.
“Some days it goes for you and some days it doesn’t. You just step up to the mark and hope to improve yourself for the next game. It’s all about the next game and you can’t dwell on the past.”
Cahill, who hopes to shake off a slight hand injury in time to face Waterford, also indicated that what matters to him is what his playing colleagues and the Tipperary management think of his performances: “that’s it. It’s all about what people think (in the group). It doesn’t matter what people think outside of that. Not in the slightest”.
Rumours have circulated concerning the inner workings of the Tipperary set-up this year with Lar Corbett’s departure in February adding significant grist to the mill. Corbett has, however, now returned to the panel. A return Cahill heralds as a “massive lift”.
“It was a massive lift,” Michael Cahill said.
“There for a while a lot of us thought we wouldn’t see him wearing the jersey again for a long time. It was an absolutely massive boost for the county and for us especially inside (the panel). To have a character like Larry in around the place makes an awful difference for the atmosphere and for everything else. You saw the last day there. He has been out for a few months, but he made such a difference when he came on. He’s been a huge lift to us all.”
And, Michael Cahill is also eager to highlight the outstanding performances of club mate Pa Bourke, a guy who has been outstanding at wing-forward thus far.
“He’s probably the most skilful person we have there on the team,” Michael Cahill explained.
“He can do anything. He can put a ball over the bar from placed ball or from play. He’s got a few good games under his belt this year and got a few scores on the board and his confidence is high at the moment. It’s a great thing to see in a player like Pa. I’m delighted for him. He got the break and he took it. He’s just flying at the moment and we hope he keeps it up.
“He was there a long time and I suppose his confidence was low or got knocked back a bit, but he’s on top of it now anyway and he’s flying at the moment. Everyone needs that bit of confidence. A good game under your belt can really see you go places. There’s not only Pa, I’m sure there are a lot more players that it can come down to confidence with.”
To get the better of Waterford Michael Cahill and company are going to need to be at their very best. And, there is no way that Tipperary will fall into the trap of taking undue confidence from last year’s 7-19 to 0-19 win over the Déise.
“I thought it was a freakish game to be honest,” Michael Cahill argued.
“I thought it would never happen again. That wasn’t the real Waterford team that we know. They have been in so many Munster finals and they know how to perform at that level, but whatever happened last year it was just a freakish game. We knew that after the game and they will be wanting to rectify that now this year.
“I wouldn’t be looking at that game too much or reading anything into it. This year they are going to want to rectify that. They will want to play twice as well and they will be twice as hard to beat.
“They are coming off the back of a good victory and a good game against Clare and they are the type of matches that you want to be winning,” Michael added.
“They came out on top there and, of course, they are coming with last year on their mind. So, we’re not expecting a soft game whatsoever. It’s going to be a tough game.
“Waterford will put it up to us big time, we will have to be on top of our game and perform at our top level if we want to get a result in that game.”
Although they operate in opposite corners everyone in the Tipperary full-back line on Sunday will share in a collective responsibility to limit the influence of John Mullane in the Munster final. The De La Salle must be watched, and carefully.
“Mullane is around a long time at this stage and he has so much experience. He is a great guy and a super hurler. He has pace and he has an eye for goal. He has everything and he always needs to be watched,” Michael Cahill said.
“He’s one of their key men and has always been. They will depend on him a lot for scores and it’s important for us to keep an eye on him. John is a big man too. He is over six foot and he has strength. Along with that then you have the pace and plenty of skill.
“He’s always a handful on any given day and he’s always going to pop up with a couple of scores. Whether it is goals or points he’s well able to do it all. He is one of their top men.”
Both Limerick and Cork made concerted efforts to drag the Tipperary half-back out of position and thereby create space in front of the full-back line. It’s an issue that Tipp will almost certainly be presented with again on Sunday.
“It seems to happen a lot,” admitted Michael Cahill.
“But I’m sure it doesn’t only happen to our full-back line. You have to expect these things. Cork are always a team who have a good game plan in place and they are always hitting in great ball into their full-forward line. That’s something that we have to work on. You can’t give out to the half-back line or anything like that because they are doing their job. We just have to marshall whoever we are on inside and do our best to keep the score down. We try our best on any given day.”
Michael Cahill also feels that suggestions that the game against Cork was defined by “loose” hurling are well off the mark.
“From where we were it didn’t seem like it was loose,” Michael Cahill said with a smile.
“It was fast and it was hard. It was tight and there was a certain toughness to it that there wasn’t in any of the other (league) games that we played before it. A lot of the other games were high-scoring, but they were that bit looser. I thought the last day was tight enough. Any score that was got had to be worked for in a lot of ways. There was a certain pace to it last day and lucky enough we came out on top.”
There is, according to Michael Cahill, plenty for Tipperary to work on: “There were a lot of scores that we could have done without and there were a few discipline problems in terms of frees and that. They are the things that we want to be working on for the next day. They are going to have a good free-taker and they are going to punish you with whatever few frees there are. It could come down to a score or two in the end and they are going to make all the difference. We will be working on those things in training.”