'Bonner' Maher's cruciate injury could be fatal to Tipperary's All-Ireland ambitions

19/06/2019 - 06:44

By Peter McNamara

Tom Morrissey of Limerick is shouldered over the sideline by Brendan Maher and Sean O’Brien of Tipperary. Picture: Sportsfile

It says everything about how imbalanced the senior hurling championship is that Limerick could be on the back of three losses after the Munster final and still be in an All-Ireland quarter-final.

Limerick, of course, succumbed to both Cork and Tipp in the provincial round-robin series and if they are to lose to the Premier again in the provincial decider, they will be one of the last six remaining teams in the championship despite having suffered a trio of summer reverses.

When you think Galway will be lying idle for the rest of the year following one defeat in four, does it really seem fair that the likes of John Kiely’s outfit could still retain their All-Ireland crown on the back of three losses?

Obviously, they could easily go and beat Tipp in the LIT Gaelic Grounds next Sunday week, however, the point stands that when people complain about the structures of the championship, it is difficult to not appreciate their point of view, even if listening to the constant moaning can be tiresome.

As an aside, how the Tribesmen must now be ruing the fact they did not absolutely torch Carlow.

Then again, maybe it is a sign that Carlow have narrowed the gap, ever so slightly, in that they might have improved a little bit.

Nevertheless, whoever takes part in the Leinster championship next year, representing the lower-tier brigade, will surely be in for a torrid time on the back of what has happened Galway.

Expect landslide victories on a scary scale as the big guns will know that anything less than a brilliant performance in that fixture could result in an early exit from the summer stage.

Returning to the here and now, though, and the pending Munster SHC final.

The unfortunate news story to emerge from Tipp’s four-point defeat of Limerick was the injury suffered by Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher.

Alongside Paudie Maher and Séamus Callanan, ‘Bonner’ is one of three of the Premier’s most important players.

As suspected, ‘Bonner’ has incurred a cruciate injury.

Tipp’s chances of winning the All-Ireland are now lessened to the point it might be the reason why they fall short, if they do. He is that vital to the way in which they play.

Does their attack function without him? Yes, it does. However, does it function to the same devastating effect? Absolutely not.

In fact, and I have put this case forward previously, you could argue that ‘Bonner’ is so unique in the role he performs for Tipp, that there is no other player like him in the country.

‘Bonner’ is a rare diamond and anybody who truly gets how the game is constructed nowadays in terms of tactics and plays, will absolutely understand why he is revered in Tipp.

The Tipp supporters get how crucial it is that he is around, orchestrating the Premier’s offence and dictating the tempo at which they move and rotate.

If there was a transfer market in the GAA, he would be the first player I would break the bank for if managing at that level.

You can have all the flair players in the world, but if you added ‘Bonner’ to that mix, it is unlikely many, if any, defences could repel your attack as he is so clever and selfless.

Cathal Barrett also suffered a mild hamstring tear, it was confirmed today, and, after the game last Sunday, Liam Sheedy bemoaned the probable loss of both players for the rematch with Limerick next Sunday week.

“We don’t know the impact of the injuries yet,” Sheedy said. “Cathal and ‘Bonner’ are two really serious warriors for us and it’s very unfortunate to lose both of them and in the first-half, it was a tough pill to swallow.

“Our guys went in and stepped up and thankfully we managed to hold on.

“[It’s] highly unlikely that either of them will make the Munster final. With any type of a strain at all, it’ll take longer than a week or two I would imagine. That’s the nature of the game, there’s always a danger that someone gets a knock and that’s why we have a panel.”

When Sheedy says it is “highly unlikely” Barrett and ‘Bonner’ make the Munster final, he was being extremely ambitious using such words in the case of the latter give how stricken Maher appeared to be departing the field in Semple Stadium.

Liam Sheedy

The other element of Sunday’s encounter in Thurles which cannot go unmentioned is the possibility that Limerick’s squad is not as illuminating as some commentators insist on making out.

Now, we will know more after the provincial showpiece in terms of how much store they really put in their round-robin clash with Tipp.

Yet, maybe the Premier, who themselves were only really in third gear, exploited a chink in Limerick’s arsenal.

The perception around Limerick since the All-Ireland semi-final last year is that their panel is unrivalled.

However, the fact Cork were perceived to be so shy on the bench that day probably accentuated the positives surrounding the Treaty’s bench and that thought-process has incorrectly stuck ever since?

Just another idea for people to ponder.

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