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21st Aug 2019

“They’re all nice, real, real genuine down to earth people” – McGrath clan doing it for Tipp

Niall McIntyre

Brought to you by Centra Ireland.

It could be a club football game in February, it could be club hurling in August.

But whenever Loughmore-Castleiney are playing in the Tipperary championship, you’ll hear the same mutterings on the sideline.

‘Five, six, seven, eight, nine…nine!!’

And no. They’re not counting subs, not counting selectors, they’re not even counting the number of cones laid out for the warm-up. They’re counting something that’s caught the eye on the match programme. It’s the number of players with the one surname listed on the Loughmore-Caslteiney team.

It’s something else.

Noel, John, Brian, Aidan, Liam, Ciaran, Tomas. We could stay going. The end figure will always push the double digits. And Loughmore-Castleiney will always give a good game.

The small rural parish in mid-Tipperary are one of the most competitive clubs in the Premier county, and are undoubtedly the county’s best dual club. And though the pick is small, that pick always punches above its weight in every competition and in every grade.

That’s because they have the McGraths. A special GAA dynasty. Some of them are brothers like Noel, John and Brian. Others are cousins like Liam and Aidan. Then there are the fathers – Pat and Tom – often the managers and Tipperary legends in a past life.

All of them are good GAA people and are generally gifted with a ball in hand.

And that’s why you’ll regularly find them on Tipperary teams. Last Sunday, three of the brothers won an All-Ireland with Tipperary. John played a big part, Brian will in the future while Noel brought the All-Ireland final man-of-the-match award back to his parish.

Lar Corbett tells Noel’s story brilliantly on Corbett and McGrath’s Big All-Ireland final Breakdown.

“Isn’t it fantastic that that sickness and that illness is not going to define who he is?” says Lar, who played alongside Noel for a number of years.

“Because a lot of times in life, people are remembered for that and solely for that (Noel McGrath was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2015) But Noel McGrath is going to be remembered for a Man of the Match in an All-Ireland Final, probably in Ireland as regards hands, and mind and as we like to say a quarterback to set up play, probably the best that’s around. Able to think a little bit quicker, a little bit faster than anyone else.

Lar then went on to discuss the McGrath clan. A grounded, down to eart bunch who live and breathe hurling.

“But, you have to remember he has great, great support. You meet any of the McGraths in Loughmore, only out the road from Thurles, they’re all nice, real, real genuine down to earth people. And you see it in his brothers as well, so he had good support around him, a good family structure around him…”

“Then you’re coming then into the likes of Tipp and you’ve good structure there as well and help when he needed help. And I think it’s fantastic that that’s not what’s going to define him. We’re all seeing it on the television in the course of the last 12 months what the real Noel McGrath is.”

That’s what it’s all about.

You can watch Corbett and McGrath here.

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