"It's why I've wanted to play for Tipp since I was young"
Tipperary were on their summer holidays early last year and for a man like Noel McGrath, it was tough to take.
Tipperary: a place where expectations are high as the sky and a sense of presumption no doubt exists. This is hurling country.
Their people presume their county will be involved at the glamour part of the season and if they're for some reason not, crisis envelopes the county and the players are in the firing line.
Noel McGrath lives for hurling. In Loughmore-Castleiney, the GAA club is the be-all and end-all. Gaelic football and hurling are both contested ferociously and the lads would never let their club down.
There is no greater honour than to represent the Tipperary team and the McGraths success in doing so is a source of great pride to their community. This man is Tipperary hurling brought to life.
The eldest of the fabled McGrath clan, Noel has been pulling on the blue and gold jersey ever since he was a county minor at the age of 15. He has won minor, under-21 and senior All-Irelands and though it's a fair string, there is still the sense that for a player of his calibre, and a group of their calibre, Tipperary have more in them.
Premier County folk weren't exactly bowled over by their county's display against Laois but after last year's state of affairs, they will take it. McGrath is just delighted to be back in the big time, back in Croke Park.
“I suppose we are happy," he said to us.
"We're back in an All-Ireland semi-final. We haven't been here in nearly two years and we got a win in Croke Park. Any day you come to Dublin and win is a good day. There were some good things out there on the field, and some things we need to work on. That's the joys of sport, we get another day to go at it again. We have a big two weeks coming up so we will be looking forward to it."
Up next is Wexford and with the Yellow Bellies the only unbeaten team left in the championship, Tipperary will be braced for the challenge of their lives.
McGrath and Tipperary are rearing for it and Sunday July 28 can't come quick enough.
“Coming to Croke Park and playing in big games like an All-Ireland final is why I train. It's why we all train. It's why I have wanted to play for Tipp since I was young and what better occasion coming up here for a semi-final? We haven't been in one since 2017.
"The opportunities don't come around all that often. You don't get anything easy in this game. We're coming up against a team that is after winning a Leinster final after an unbelievable Leinster Championship so we know they will come here in high spirits and with a panel of players that are able to compete. What more do you want? I suppose the big crowds means the occasions are only getting bigger.”
McGrath is a player for the big occasion. His pass to set-up a Seamus Callanan goal had the crowd agape and sent Tipp on their way.
There is literally no hurler in Ireland with better vision than Noel McGrath
Takes out all of Laois with one pass
Some touch from Callanan. Class by Tipppic.twitter.com/zXmNF6g6Ym
— GAA JOE (@GAA__JOE) July 14, 2019
That's where they wanted to be. While Tipperary go into the game as 1/2 favourites with the bookmakers, their manager Liam Sheedy doesn't see it that way.
"Look, I’m a realist too, we’re under no illusions that level of performance wouldn’t be enough. Wexford will probably go in raging hot favourites based on their performances this year, they’re unbeaten to date."