The good news for Tipperary: As one Maher departs, another is on the way back. On Tuesday, three-time All-Ireland winner Paudie Maher announced his hurling retirement, forced by a neck injury. Last week, after a torrid few years with injury troubles, Patrick 'Bonner' Maher made his return to competitive action with TU Dublin in the Fitzgibbon Cup.
Bonner missed much of Tipperary's 2019 All-Ireland winning season due to a cruciate ligament injury, then in 2021 suffered a torn Achilles tendon during training.
"Cruciate ligament injuries are one thing but when you rupture an Achilles tendon, it's a savage injury to incur, particularly when Patrick was just basically doing a bit of a run and a jog," said two-time All-Ireland winner Ken Hogan, also Maher's Lorrha clubmate, at the launch of the 2022 Allianz Hurling Leagues.
"To get over that game last weekend in the Fitzgibbon, and to be playing again this week, that's the first barrier he's got to jump.
"He's moving well. He's in absolutely superb shape. People talk about age, but it's just a number. You look at all the different sports, Tom Brady retiring in the last few days...
"For Patrick, his endurance levels are so high. I expect him to come in and play in a big way. He's lost out on a couple of years.
"I think he's going to come back, and be a huge player for Tipp. He is the ultimate ball winner. We mentioned Brendan Maher, and Paudie, but Niall O'Meara isn't available either to Tipperary for this year's campaign. Patrick will slot in there, and hopefully get a good run without any injury problems. He leads by example. He's one of those warriors that we still have on board.
"We know what he's about. In a sense, he's a freak of nature, because the type of hurling he plays, he wins hard ball, he breaks the tackle. He's very fast, very strong.
"He wins all the fitness tests still, with Tipperary. The young fellas are taking him on, and he's taking on the young fellas. That's the great thing for the younger players to see, this guy at this stage of his career, still taking on the best. His fitness results are still outrageous. That's just a barometer of the [standards] Patrick sets for himself.
"From that perspective, that type of man is needed in the set-up; the guy who will show that type of leadership. He's not vocal - he never was vocal - he leads by example. He takes the hits, and he's so unselfish in his play. He is a guy that will make things happen in that forward line.
"He still has a lot to contribute. He can play at number eight, which he played with Lorrha, to number 15. I think he can settle into a lot of those positions, and be versatile, and move around where Tipperary need him most."
Teammate Brian Hogan, son of Ken, said Maher's absence was a "huge loss" to the Tipp half-forward line.
"The moves that he makes for puck-outs, it’s a pleasure trying to find him," said the current Tipperary goalkeeper.
"The work-rate he brings to Tipp is immense. He's done huge work. I'd meet him in the gym a good bit in Birr, one of the Lorrha lads owns a gym in there, House Fitness. He'd be in there working away the whole time, doing his rehab, his training, always looking after his nutrition.
"In 2019, when he got the cruciate injury, every night he was there on the spin bike at the sideline watching us training. He'd be there training away on his own. He gave us massive confidence, and it was unbelievable to look on at him, he was an inspiration the way he got back from that injury.
"He's incredible. Nothing ever fazes him. He keeps coming, keeps coming, and always wants to give more."
Picture credits: Sportsfile