One of the major highlights of the AIB All-Ireland Club Hurling Championship has been the form of Brendan Maher.

The Tipperary star followed up an inter-county All-Ireland in 2019 with a crucial role in guiding his club Borris-Ileigh into the club final against Ballyhale Shamrocks, which takes place on 19 January.

Maher played a starring role in Sunday's semi-final against St Thomas' of Galway. He scored 0-10 on what was his 31st birthday.

Speaking on the RTE GAA Podcast, former All-Ireland-winning Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins feels former Tipp manager Eamon O'Shea, who is part of Liam Sheedy's current inter-county backroom team, has played a key role in Maher's form.

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Maher's leadership ability was evident from the moment he joined the Tipp panel according to Cummins.

"The very minute we had a huddle, Brendan Maher had something to say and it's very, very seldom a young fella comes into a panel and has something to say that has real weight and meaning," he said.

"Normally, they come in and shout and roar and do all the mad stuff. 

"But he had stuff that had huge weight. Automatically, you said to yourself, 'Yeah, this fella's going places'.

"It's been a fantastic story for Borris-Illeigh. They've grown and they have momentum bow. There's a real belief and a style of play. Everyone knows what Brendan Maher is going to do but nobody has found a way of stopping him from doing it."

Cummins credited Maher for bouncing back from a difficult period in his career.

"When he suddenly found that he wasn't the captain anymore, he had to reinvent it," he said.

"And then of course he had the injury. But there's another thing rowing into the Brendan Maher story as well and I think that's Eamon O'Shea.

Brendan Maher of Boris-Ileigh following the AIB Munster GAA Hurling Senior Club Championship Final match between Ballygunner and Borris-Ileigh
Brendan Maher of Boris-Ileigh following the match between Ballygunner and Borris-Ileigh

"Eamon O'Shea, once he came back into that Tipperary setup, I know the weight he carries as well to the older players, the ones who were there in '08, '09 and '10 with Liam.

"And the way he talks, it just fuels you and you want to make sure you're at your very, very best. He allows you to be that and [Maher] has carried the inter-county form into the club. 

"He's been hitting the ball over the bar with half a hurley and stuff like that. It's just madness but it's what makes us all love hurling as much as we do.

Cummins added that crucial to Maher's imperious form has been his team-mates' contribution as they won their first Tipp title since 1986, then Munster and now becoming the first Tipperary team to reach an All-Ireland decider in 26 years.

"It's been a fantastic story for Borris-Illeigh," said Cummins. "They grown and they have momentum bow. There's a real belief and a style of play. Everyone knows what Brendan Maher is going to do but nobody has found a way of stopping them from doing it.

"The big thing was winning the Munster final against Ballygunner. They were raging outsiders going into that game. There's a a battling spirit in Borris-Illeigh that will take a fair bit of beating.

"Brendan has been the focal point. But also, I think it's important to note not just Brendan Maher, but those around him have allowed him to go up the field.

"He goes up the pitch like Roy of the Rovers stuff. Dan McCormack or Ryan in the middle of the field. They're all filtering back to make sure they're somebody sitting in front of Paddy Stapleton.

"So while the individual is getting the plaudits, the collective are allowing him to do what he's doing. That's been the secret to Borris-Ileigh's success." 

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