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Wednesday 28 September 2016

Maher: Cats have been a 'monkey on the back'

'When you have opportunities and it doesn't work out for you … it's always there in the back of your mind and you reflect back on it'. Photo :Sportsfile
'When you have opportunities and it doesn't work out for you … it's always there in the back of your mind and you reflect back on it'. Photo :Sportsfile

Brendan Maher doesn't attempt to sugarcoat the stats: Kilkenny have been a "monkey on the back" for most of his Tipperary senior career.

But while the Premier county skipper can't alter history, he can try and control the present. That's why he won't allow negative memories of past battles with Kilkenny to colour his mindset going into tomorrow's final.

He was also captain when Tipp fell to the Cats in 2014, after two epic but very contrasting All-Ireland battles. That remains a motivating factor now.

"It's definitely in the back of my mind," he says. "When you have opportunities and it doesn't work out for you … it's always there in the back of your mind and you reflect back on it.

"But I'm very conscious not to dwell on the past. I'm a very firm believer in sticking with the present, no matter what has happened.

"So, it would have been the same after a good win - you just have to draw a line under it and move on. That's the way sport works. If you read up on any of the athletes, they'll tell you about living in the now and always giving everything to the present moment.

"So that's what I'm trying to do. I'm just trying to make sure that I train as hard as I can now and get my performance as good as I can for the All-Ireland. And hopefully then - as a collective - we can have a performance that will get us a win."

But is it a case that Tipp simply can't afford to lose again to Kilkenny?

"Look, there's no point saying it's not a monkey on the back. It is," Maher accepts.

"It's two years since we played them in the championship, and I'm just glad we're back and have a chance to prove ourselves again against the best. And there's no doubt that Kilkenny have been the best - possibly of all time, but certainly of the last ten years, or since I started playing.

"It's just great to play them because if you beat them now in an All-Ireland you know you've earned it - you deserve to be champions."

Maher is seeking to become the fourth Borris-Ileigh clubman to lift the Liam MacCarthy. As for why he didn't raise the cup in 2014, or why Kilkenny have won a majority of their recent head-to-heads with Tipp, he can see no profound reason other than "they've performed better than us, it's as simple as that."

There have been lots of retirements, in both camps, post-2014 and Maher reckons we are looking at two new teams. As for any remaining psychological baggage, he counters: "We've played them in the league and beaten them in the league; but the championship matches, obviously ... we know we can beat them.

"I'm not going out thinking, 'We've never beaten Kilkenny, we haven't a hope.' We have massive belief in ourselves, we're going to go out and give 100pc for Tipperary, and what will be will be."

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