Murphy pays a powerful tribute to the man who's fuelled by the same fire 3 months ago

Murphy pays a powerful tribute to the man who's fuelled by the same fire

They might come from different counties and play in different positions but Paul Murphy and Patrick Maher have always seen life through the same eyes.

There is no love lost between Tipperary and Kilkenny but that's just another way of saying that there's a deep and mutual respect. Between the pair of army men who have often horsed each other of it in some pent-up corner of Croke Park, you will find no greater example.

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The warrior game has pitted Murphy and Maher against each other enough times for them to have their reasons but the war has always ended the same way. It was only after laying into each other the guts of 70 ferocious minutes when they'd stand up and without fail, they'd shake the hand and look into the eyes of a man who was fuelled by the same fire.

"He's admired across the country," says Kilkenny's four-time All-Star.

"He's one of those players who just goes about his business. Throughout the years, he would have had the likes of Seamie, Lar, Eoin Kelly and Bubbles around him, scoring and taking the limelight. But I always thought that Bonner Maher was the engine for that Tipperary forward line."

"He comes out and he gets the ball around midfield, wing forward and he'll be in with blocks and hooks and everything. I've marked him as well, and was lucky enough to hurl with him in the army as well and what sums him up best is that he wouldn't say anything to you on the pitch, he's too busy running after the ball and hounding and tackling. That's just his way."

It was only last week when the hurling community was shaking their heads at the injustice of it all when, less than a year after recovering from a torn cruciate, Maher was struck down again, this time by a ruptured achilles tendon he sustained at a Tipperary training session.

"Off the pitch, he's just unassuming, a really positive fella so when I saw the news," says Murphy, "I was thinking that is so tough for him because we all want to see Bonner Maher hurling. I think the hurling community as a whole just feel for him after that. He will be certainly missed by Tipperary."

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Admired for his abrasive style, it'd news to no-one within his county to say that Maher's name was written over the majority of Tipperary scores. That's why when Kilkenny came up against them down through the years, the Cats would be thinking of ways to get the better of him.

"If we came up against Tipp over the years, Bonner was a fella who could have hurled anywhere," says Murphy.

"He could have hurled in on Jackie Tyrrell, he could have been out centre forward winning ball, he'll do any job at all. It just freed up every player around him, to stand away from the rucks. Lar would have been a player we'd always have looked at as someone who'd drift and would then finish it after getting a pop-pass. The pass usually came from Bonner Maher, who was in the ruck flicking and blocking and just getting the ball out."

It might take him a while to recover from this one, but it will be longer before someone gets the better of Bonner Maher.

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