Brendan Maher pictured standing over a free during Borris-Ileigh's AIB All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship semi-final against St Thomas' (Galway) at the LIT Gaelic Grounds. Pic: Eamonn McGee
In the AIB All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship final on Sunday, January 19 (2pm) at Croke Park in Dublin Borris-Ileigh are fully aware that they face a ferocious challenge in Ballyhale Shamrocks. And, according to Brendan Maher the Borris-Ileigh men are prepared to give the decider every ounce of themselves.
The TipperaryLive.ie coverage of the All-Ireland club hurling final is in association with Ryan's of Camden Street (Dublin).
“We have been faced with big challenges for the whole year and we are not going to approach it any differently,” Brendan Maher told the Tipperary Star.
“We realise we will be underdogs. We realise that it's a mammoth challenge, but we are not going to change our mind-set. We will approach it the same way we have approached all of our games. It has done us good until now, so why change?
“We have been labelled underdogs all (of) the time, but we don't have the mind-set of underdogs. It’s a simple approach in the sense that we will go out and work as hard as we can for each other.
“We have a lot of freedom in us. You can see that in the way that we play. There's no pressure on us; no one is afraid to make mistakes. We make mistakes and we do things that we shouldn't do, but we get on with it and that's what has gotten us to where we are now.
“So, it’s a similar approach on Sunday. Obviously, we realise we’re coming up against an unbelievable team, but we will go out with the same mind-set that we have adopted for every game: to try and play as best we can. We realise that we’re up against a savage team and savage players, but we're not going to shy away from it. We will give them a good rattle.”
CAUSE A FEW PROBLEMS
And, irrespective of the talent that Ballyhale Shamrocks team manager Henry Shefflin can point to among his own ranks Borris-Ileigh also have some players that are likely to cause a few problems for the defending All-Ireland champions.
“We have more than one player to watch, but we would like to think they have more than one player to watch as well; I think we have enough of threats to cause them problems,” Brendan Maher said.
Manager Johnny Kelly encourages the Borris-Ileigh men to get out there and express themselves; to attack the game. It is an approach that Brendan Maher appreciates, but the inter-county star also realises that a balance must be struck and that, sometimes, individual players need to sacrifice their own game in order for the team to prevail.
The most contemporary example is the man-marking job that Tommy Ryan did on St Thomas' and Galway inter-county star David Burke during the recent All-Ireland semi-final. A performance that Brendan Maher was eager to highlight.
“Definitely, we are fairly tactically astute and that's one thing Johnny (Kelly) has brought to us. The likes of what Tommy (Ryan) did the last day would, maybe, go unnoticed in a lot of circles. But that was something that was spoken about beforehand; he knew that he was going to have to sacrifice his game and I spoke to him about it because I’ve had to deal with that, at times, with Tipp,” Brendan Maher explained.
“It's a hard thing to do. You have to be very disciplined to do it and in fairness to Tommy he stuck to the task. He loves to play ball, but he had to go against his natural instincts a bit.”
Such selflessness is also reflected in players like Liam Ryan and Séamus Burke who have pushed their attacking instincts to one side this season and committed totally to man-marking roles in the full-back line. When you have every member of your panel prepared to commit to such a team ethic you are hard beaten.
Similarly, for the final Borris-Ileigh will come with a game plan, commit to it and then, if is it not working, Johnny Kelly's men are also prepared to adapt during the contest.
“We will decide on what we are going to do, but it might change after a few minutes. And, I think that's the beauty of what we have - we have lads willing to adapt and we are not set to any one thing. If something's not working we will change it. We will agree on something to start with and we will see how it goes,” Brendan Maher said.
To keep up to date with all the sporting news in Tipperary please click here - to follow the Tipperary Star sports team on twitter please click here - to follow sports editor Brian McDonnell on Twitter please click here. Alternatively, you can also like the Tipperary Star on Facebook.