JAKE MORRIS PLAYED four seasons alongside Paudie Maher, but it was a moment two years before his senior call-up that left a lasting impression on the young forward.
Maher announced his shock retirement from hurling yesterday due to a neck injury, departing with three Celtic Crosses and six All-Stars before the age of 33.
Reflecting on his fondest memory of Maher, the 22-year-old recalled the classic 2016 All-Ireland semi-final between Tipperary and Galway when he laid out Joe Canning in the first-half.
Both players had to receive treatment for blood injuries, such was the ferocity of the challenge.
“We played the minor All-Ireland (semi-final) in 2016 and were sitting down in the Hogan Stand after,” said Morris. “Padraic Maher nailed Joe Canning a shoulder across the line out in front of us. I’ll never forget the crunch of it, that shoulder that day.
“I was called into the Tipp team in 2018 and I remember thinking to myself as a light 18-year old that I’d better not go near Padraic Maher or he’ll throw me out over line. That was my fond memory of him. That shoulder, which was the turning point that day. There’s numerous memories, he was such a good hurler for Tipperary.
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“If you look back at Paudie Maher he would probably have made any Tipperary team ever. He was such a monster at wing back or anywhere else he lined out.
“Honest to God, I can’t remember him having a bad day at the office, constant nine out of 10s for Tipperary over the years. He’s set standards for us inside, showing us how to train every night and how to look after your body, how to attack a match on match day in front of 40,000 people.
“Everyone has massive respect for him and we wish him all the best and we’re going to try our best to continue his legacy. I’m sure Ronan (his brother) will do his best anyway. He’s an unbelievable man and what a hurler he was for Tipperary and Thurles Sarsfields.”
Morris described his surprise to wake up to a message from Maher in the team WhatsApp group.
“He put it in this morning,” Morris remarked yesterday. “I woke up to a bit of a shock because I knew Paudie was mad to get back and so it must have been a big setback for him.
“Having to step away from hurling is a big whammy for him. I’m sure he would have liked to play another couple of years. I think everyone can agree he was so comfortable last year playing with Thurles and Tipperary that it was a big shock to the system but that’s life, isn’t it?
“It can be taken away from you in a second so I really do have big sympathy for Padraic this morning. I think that we can be grateful for being healthy enough to go out and play for Tipperary and your club. So it’s definitely an eye-opener.”
Jake Morris played alongside Maher for four years with Tipperary.
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He paid tribute to the work Maher put in on the physical side of his game.
“We are all very disappointing that Paudie has had to step away but it is important to remember what he has done for Tipperary, and us as players will take a lot from his honesty levels, the way he looks after himself. He was such a good athlete and a warrior for Tipperary.
“What people don’t know about him would be the off-field stuff, the way he looked after himself and kept his body right. He was the best at doing that from what I have seen anyway.
“I remember watching him in 2010 and he was a big hero of mine and he still is. He has given everything to Tipperary and he can hold his head up high.
“The best thing we can do now is carry on his levels of honesty, and the way he treated the Tipperary jersey, and he can be happy with that.”
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To lose him so soon after Brendan Maher’s retirement means new Tipperary manager Colm Bonnar is facing a defensive rebuild of sorts.
Morris has urged the young guns in the Premier panel to step up in their absence.
“He showed us the standard and it is up to us now to continue that on for him.
“We have competitive squad inside in Tipp and I think everyone just needs to raise the levels a small bit to fill Paudie’s void from now on because it’s going to be a big void but together if we get up the standard of the way he trains and played, we will be in a good spot.”
Bonnar confirmed players will be handed the opportunity to step into the fray in the Allianz Hurling League, which begins this weekend against Laois.
“When players step away it is an opportunity and it will be a case that we will be rebuilding with some newer players and they’ll be getting opportunities next Saturday,” he stated.
“It’s a journey for them and it’s not going to start and end with Laois. It’s going to be a journey as a campaign for them.
“If you love hurling you have to live that life and you have to get involved in it and you have take it over for six, seven, eight, nine years, whatever chance you get to play it and use it as best you can.”