The first audition took place with regards to Tipperary’s search for a potential senior full back.
Tipperary manager Michael Ryan with his selectors Declan Fanning and Conor Stakelum were in the judges seats at Semple Stadium for the Under 21 Munster Championship Semi Final.
Brian McGrath the younger brother of Noel and John entered the stage on the field of legends with the number 3 jersey on his back. His inclusion at full back was akin to those times during a X-Factor show when a contestant walks on to the stage and the audience is uneasy about the quality of the impending performance.
Tipperary’s hurling public questioned his selection at full back in the lead up to the game. They were more accustomed to McGrath playing in the half back line or higher up the field.
What McGrath treated the judges and Tipperary supporters to was a rendition of full back play which mixed defending reminiscent of Offaly’s Kevin Kinahan in the 90’s. The long range free taking skills of Clare’s Seanie McMahon. Topped off with the finesse of skill we have come to associate with his brothers Noel and John.
The 2016 All Ireland minor winning captain ended the game with :
- 9 possessions
- 77.77 % accuracy in his pass completion.
- 2 blocks
- 3 pointed frees
His ability to read the game was also evident on many different occasions. For Tipperary’s goal, McGrath read the play picking up the sliotar and delivering it in to space to the Tipperary forward line. (Video Below)
In rugby defensive decisions made by a player is often lauded by management and analysts. Some of McGrath’s decisions while defending Limerick senior full forward Seamus Flanagan were excellent.
He batted ball during 50/50 duals at the right time for his corner backs to sweep and also fielded possession when it was the best option. (Videos Below)
During play the UL fresher showed his ability to be a tight man marker by getting two blocks on Flanagan. His block under the New Stand in Thurles was greeted by a huge roar from the Tipperary crowd. (Video Below)
What reason would a block which resulted in a side line cut generate such a loud roar from the Premier supporters?
In Tipperary, wristy forwards who gets scores are always welcome in the county. But they are like boybands in the 90’s, there is plenty of them around and while their tune might be good the public want something different.
McGrath showed something different in the under 21 game for Tipperary. He mixed the traditional Tipperary skill with teak toughness you’d associate with full backs of the past.
His thirst for all out warfare at times drew comparisons of how Offaly’s Kevin Kinahan would play the position. The Clareen man would take part in duals with opposition forwards for possession and create carnage in the area he was in.
Once possession was gained a calmness would come over Kinahan. He would emerge from the ruck with hurls air born and bodies strewn on the ground, usually finishing his job with the use of a simple hand pass to a team mate in order to clear the danger.
McGrath displayed this attitude and discipline during the 60 minutes of their victory over Limerick.
(See how McGrath compares in the video below)
While first auditions can be no guarantee for a successful career and the performance needs to be taken in to context as it was in an Under 21 game. The Tipperary public have craved for a full back to emerge from some corner of the county.
For now the Premier can surely get excited about the emergence of McGrath number 3 and his X Factor in the position.