Paddy Stapleton, Gerry Treacy, Paddy McCormack, Pádraic Maher and Michael Maher pictured at a press event to promote the county senior hurling final. Photo: Eamonn McGee
As usual Paddy McCormack is on his guard - Paddy’s media policy is always to play things down and speak with humility. Paddy, you see, suffered through the period between 1974 and 2005 when Thurles Sarsfields failed to win a county senior hurling title. You won't catch McCormack taking anything for granted.
Right now the Blues are winning and winning well - on Sunday, October 8th Thurles Sarsfields enter the county senior hurling final against Borris-Ileigh chasing a 36th title and a fourth successive Dan Breen Cup, but Paddy McCormack is smart enough to realise that this success story could, at any point, come to an abrupt halt.
“The Tipperary championship is a hard championship to win - you have thirty-two teams who can, potentially, reach the Dan Breen final day,” Paddy McCormack said. Indeed, McCormack would not even let the possibility of placing four county titles back-to-back cross his mind. It is not relevant.
“Not for us anyway - it is all about the next game and it is all about winning this county championship. We will be doing our best to win it. No matter what you win any way you will always be compared to some team that won ten or eleven. We will never do enough,” Paddy McCormack added - McCormack works as coach to the Thurles Sarsfields senior hurling team under manager Tommy Maher and alongside selectors Eoin Kelly (Mullinahone) and Johnny Enright.
“We are on the road now for four years. Our lads are a good bunch - they are all good fellas and they are working very, very hard. They are trying to hold jobs down, trying to go to college and trying to do all the different things,” Paddy McCormack added.
“We are all looking forward to the county final. It's a different county final - you have to go back a long way to find the last time that Borris-Ileigh and Thurles Sarsfields met in a county final. There are some great names on both teams; county players and potential county players on both teams. So, it should bring the best out of both teams. And, it is something to look forward to for spectators as well. I think Tipperary needs a good county championship final. A lot of people in the county would probably think that we need a new county champion, but we will be doing our best to see can we keep it the same way as it is,” the Blues’ coach added with a smile.
Although Thurles Sarsfields have played some sensational hurling this year it is Paddy McCormack’s job, as coach, to identify issues with the performance of the team and then address those issues in training. Indeed, there were aspects of the nine-point (0-27 to 0-18) county semi-final win over Éire Óg Annacarty which McCormack was not pleased with.
“You are never happy - when you are in management you are never happy; you are always looking for more and certainly after today we have to find a lot more to beat Borris-Ileigh,” Paddy McCormack explained.
“After the first quarter of an hour we were well on top, but after that I think Éire Óg Annacarty matched us score-for-score and I think the game could have been a draw from the 15th minute to the 61st minute. So, fair play to Éire Óg Annacarty - it wasn't about us taking the foot off the pedal or anything like that. In fairness they fought and fought - the very same way that they fought against Mullinahone. You had to admire them - they had thirteen against fifteen the last day out (against Mullinahone in the county quarter-final) and it was fantastic. Look, we are there in the county final and we have a lot of work to do in the next two weeks.”
Irrespective of the talent at the disposal of Thurles Sarsfields because opposition teams are prepared to such a significant degree it is hard to dominate teams for the duration of any given game.
“All the club teams are so well prepared now - they are so well managed, prepared and trained that it's nearly like an inter-county set-up. So, every team you play is a difficult game no matter who it is,” Paddy McCormack explained.
“If you look back at all of our recent games - Upperchurch-Drombane could have won their first Mid (Tipperary) final and maybe should have won their first Mid final against us,” McCormack added.
“Kilruane MacDonagh's the last day - you know they led us by seven points in Templemore in the qualifying stages and they drew with us and took us to extra-time the last day. And, as I said, for the last forty-five minutes today Éire Óg Annacarty matched us. So, the games are difficult to win, but all we can do is prepare as well as we can for those games. Now we are looking forward to the county final and it is all about the next game.”
ANOTHER STERN TEST
In the county final Thurles Sarsfields are likely to face another stern test. This time from a Borris-Ileigh team who have transformed themselves from also-rans into county title contenders under coach Johnny Kelly. And, the marked progress of the men draped in maroon and white has not been lost on Paddy McCormack.
“Brendan (Maher) was absolutely outstanding there during the last few minutes (against Drom & Inch) - he was catching ball over lads' heads and it was absolutely fantastic. Paddy (Stapleton) inside then - Paddy is one of the great corner-backs of our time in Tipperary. And, he is someone that we are missing in our county team now as well,” Paddy McCormack explained.
“You go up further then and the two Kennys (Niall and Conor) are like the Kennys of old; they have strength and they are a handful. Conor, I would say, is pressing hard to get back into that county team again, but they have other players as well all around the field - Dan McCormack is outstanding and so is Seán (McCormack). They have so many great players and Borris-Ileigh always had them. Sometimes they did not realise their full potential, but this year they are on a really good run; to win the North final was a really big boost to them. And, fair play to them. They beat Drom & Inch today who were easy winners the last day and were probably fancied in most bookmakers, but Borris-Ileigh ignored all of that and went out and played their game. I think they were deserving winners in the finish,” Paddy McCormack added.
“Borris-Ileigh are well-managed this year. Johnny Kelly has won three club All-Irelands with Portumna - he has been there and seen all the big days with club teams in Galway as well. So, they are well-managed, well-trained and they are a very fit Borris-Ileigh team compared to the team that I saw last year. So, the stadium suits them and a lot of their key players are playing really, really well.”
Pictured top: Paddy Stapleton (Borris-Ileigh captain), Gerry Treacy (Borris-Ileigh club secretary), Paddy McCormack (Thurles Sarsfields coach), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields captain) and Michael Maher (Thurles Sarsfields club chairman) pictured at a press event ahead of the Tipperary Water County Senior Hurling Championship final. Photo: Eamonn McGee
PATHS TO THE FINAL
County Senior Hurling Championship
Borris-Ileigh 1-16 Drom & Inch 1-12
Thurles Sarsfields 0-27 Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill 0-18
Thurles Sarsfields 3-26 Kilruane MacDonagh’s 1-22
Borris-Ileigh 1-18 Loughmore-Castleiney 1-17
Borris-Ileigh 3-17 Carrick Swans 2-5
Borris-Ileigh 4-17 Upperchurch-Drombane 0-15
Borris-Ileigh 1-16 Loughmore 1-16
Borris-Ileigh 1-13 Kiladangan 1-20
Thurles Sarsfields 4-20 Nenagh Éire Óg 2-10
Thurles Sarsfields 1-25 Kilruane MacDonagh’s 2-15
Thurles Sarsfields 5-32 Carrick Swans 0-7
North Tipperary Senior Hurling Championship
Borris-Ileigh 2-19 Nenagh Éire Óg 0-18
Borris-Ileigh 2-16 Templederry 0-20
Borris-Ileigh 0-20 Toomevara 0-12
Mid Tipperary Senior Hurling Championship
Thurles Sarsfields 1-14 Upperchurch-Drombane 2-10
Thurles Sarsfields 1-34 Holycross-Ballycahill 0-20
Thurles Sarsfields 3-27 Drom & Inch 1-16