Paddy Stapleton and the Borris-Ileigh panel pictured celebrating their county final win over Kiladangan at Semple Stadium, Thurles. Picture: Eamonn McGee
In a heart-warming turn of events the clubs of Tipperary have come out in force to support Borris-Ileigh during their extraordinary campaign which will culminate in Sunday's AIB All-Ireland Senior Club Hurling Championship decider at Croke Park, Dublin (throw-in 2pm). In his report to convention County Board secretary Tim Floyd described Borris-Ileigh as the “people's champion” while hurling people from all corners of the Premier County made the journey to the LIT Gaelic Grounds to roar Johnny Kelly's men on against St Thomas' in the recent semi-final. Indeed, it is a pattern that Paddy Stapleton has recognised; the full-back regards the phenomenon as a “compliment” to the Borris-Ileigh team.
The TipperaryLive.ie coverage of the All-Ireland club hurling final is in association with Ryan's of Camden Street (Dublin).
“Definitely. We definitely feel it. You could sense it. I think it's lovely. It's a compliment to ourselves,” Paddy Stapleton explained to the Tipperary Star before suggesting that, maybe, hurling people in the Premier County were responding in particular to Borris-Ileigh's approach to the game.
“People probably like that there are not too many gimmicks involved. We have a couple of county players, but we are a fierce hard-working team. And, I think that people identify with that; there is not too much fancy stuff. We just get the job done. It's a simple way of playing and I think people like that. And, you wouldn't see us getting too carried away - personality-wise I would say that a lot of the lads would be known around the place and it would be known that they would be fairly every day fellas.”
Shane Stapleton, of course, won back-to-back All-Ireland clubs titles with Cuala (Dublin) in 2017-18. And, the Borris-Ileigh full-back has admitted that he did feel “envious” of his brother's achievements. So, who could blame Paddy Stapleton for enjoying the extraordinary journey that Borris-Ileigh have embarked on this season. Indeed, Paddy has described the build-up to the forthcoming All-Ireland final as “as good a feeling as you could have playing sport”.
Now it is all about preparing sensibly for the decider; about getting the heads right in order to deliver a performance.
“I don't think that it will be a big issue because I just know the lads. We treat it all with a pinch of salt. I don't think anything is going to disrupt the players giving it their best shot,” Paddy Stapleton explained.
“I feel that the final should be treated the very same as we have been treating games for the whole year. What's the point in not? What am I going to say to the lads that is going to make them play differently or better? They know it's an important game, but we are just going to look at it the very same. And, I trust them to go out and do what they have done; to express themselves the very same as they have done all year and, hopefully, that will be good enough to win”.
And, Paddy Stapleton believes that the storied history associated with the Borris-Ileigh club has actually been a help to the players. The fact that Borris-Ileigh won the All-Ireland club title in 1987 is no where near a hindrance, it is, in actual fact, a help.
“It definitely doesn't hurt,” the Borris-Ileigh full-back told the Tipperary Star.
“I don't know how much it helps, but it definitely doesn't hurt. I always thought that was a nice thing to have to live up to. You would see a lot of teams winning their county final for the first time or for the first time in a long time and, I suppose, that is their be-all and end-all. But I think it was something that we could focus on. We had another team that had done it before. We're not the greatest team that has ever come out of this parish. So, let's go and see if we can challenge and try to emulate what they did before. I certainly don't think that it hurt us.”
Ballyhale Shamrocks, of course, present as big challenge a challenge as there is in club hurling.
The defending champions feature legends like Michael Fennelly, Joey Holden, TJ Reid and Colin Fennelly and then a whole plethora of emerging stars like Adrian Mullen and Brian Cody. The trick is, however, not to fall into the trap of focusing too much of your attention on the opposition and, thereby, neglect to bring what you do well to the contest.
“Ballyhale are a very, very good team. Similarly to that we knew that St Thomas' were a very, very good team,” Paddy Stapleton said.
“I was asked an awful lot before that (semi-final) about how would we deal with their players. I would say that a lot of people have been on teams where you have tried to mind all of the star players on different teams and in my experience that is definitely the hardest thing to do. You just end up chasing shadows. So, we just have to do our homework, but also go out there and play as good as we can play.”
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