By Noel Dundon
There has been a long and distinguished list of brothers representing Tipperary at the highest level going down the generations and on Sunday two more will join the brigade when the Mahers of Tonagha, Thurles and the McGraths of Lisheen, Loughmore take to the field in Croke Park on All-Ireland Final Day.
Yes, it will be a special day for the families of Padraic and Ronan, and Noel and John - their brother Brian will also lead Tipp in the minor final (see separate article).
But, does it make a difference to the fabric of the team to have brothers included? 2010 All-Ireland winning captain Eoin Kelly certainly thinks it does, and he should know, since he was joined on the 2001 winning side by his brother Paul.
"I had it with Paul in 2001 - if he got the ball you'd know that he'd be looking for you. It brings a strong bond and a spirit to the team and I can see that in Tipp at the moment with the Mahers and the McGraths. The brothers being in sync with each other - you see John's pass to Noel in the All-Ireland semi-final when he hit the crossbar, and the Mahers in the half back line as well. It definitely brings something to the team," he told The Tipperary Star this week.
That 'something' has been enjoyed by Tipperary teams of practically every generation with the likes of the Kellys of Mullinahone; the Bonnars of Cashel; the Stakelums, Kenny's, Stapleton's and Ryans of Borris-Ileigh; the Doyle's, Keane's and Lanigan's of Thurles; the Hayes' of Clonoulty Rossmore; the Ryan's of Moycarkey and Roscrea; and the Leahy's of Boherlahan, to mention just a few.
"I suppose Ronan coming into the side was a help to me because I have played so much with him at club level and having Michael Cahill behind too is the same. Ronan is well able to look after himself so I suppose it made my job that little bit easier when he was there. Since he came into the scene as a minor, he has been able ot take it all in his stride. He is very calm and cool about it all. He's level headed and you can see by him that he is really enjoying his hurling.
"There has been a litany of good hurlers from the same families playing for Tipp. To have one family member on the panel is great, but to have two is even better and it makes it really special for all the family," Padraic Maher said this week.
The hope for all of Tipperary is that another two sets of brothers will join that elite band on Sunday evening if and when the Liam McCarthy Cup is hoisted by Brendan Maher, whose own brother Martin also played for Tipp, although they did feature together in the panel at the same time.
Pictured left: Noel McGrath greets Padraic Maher after the final whistle, while right, John McGrath in action against Clare in the National Hurling League game back in the spring.
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