Friday 20 October 2017

'Galway defeat shows we're mortals'

Michael Ryan admits Tipperary ‘are not unaccustomed to losing’. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Michael Ryan admits Tipperary ‘are not unaccustomed to losing’. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The scale of Tipperary's 16-point hurling league final defeat to Galway has, for their manager Michael Ryan, at least helped to dent the burgeoning reputation that was building up around the All-Ireland champions throughout the spring.

Parts of the positive critique that was following them around were justified; more of it was not however and it has allowed Ryan to reinforce a couple of points, chief among that they can't bear comparison to their neighbours and great rivals.

"We're not unaccustomed to losing matches. We're not Kilkenny," Ryan pointed out. "We have lost our share of matches. I have been involved in them both as a player, selector and now manager. That was against the grain. We didn't see it coming. Kudos to Galway, outstanding team on the day. I think we would have been stretched to our absolute limits to live with them even had we turned up."

Defeat now offers a better perspective of who they are.

Superlative

"I was talking to some friends (saying) it's almost as if the bubble burst and the honeymoon ended. We almost could do no wrong which was never the case. We live in mere mortal land. We make plenty of mistakes, we're always trying to improve but we're not the finished article and we never professed to be."

Glorifying the team of the moment is a common trait and as their unbeaten run extended through their first four league games, the vocabulary around the reigning All-Ireland champions became more superlative.

"That's one of the most difficult things we have got to try and manage. Not so much within the group but outside of our group. A lot of that is outside of our control. This goes on every year," he said.

"We were delighted, let's not undersell it, 2016 for us was an absolutely fantastic year. The minute you have that title people look at you as though you are the new force in hurling, maybe we would become Kilkennyesque and gone on to a level of dominance.

"We haven't given up the dream of trying to be successful at all. People write up winners too soon.

"To be fair there is only one Kilkenny. Nobody else has achieved what these guys have achieved. Number one, we have all failed to win it with any degree of regularity. Really and truly, all comparisons are about Kilkenny. None of us in the chasing pack has cracked it. Not one. We don't profess to be any different to that, other than this is 2017, it's a new year, we all have our toe on the line and we got a very stern lesson about what flatness can do to you and how it might look. We certainly don't want to see it again."

Still, a defeat on the scale that they experienced in Limerick more than three weeks ago deserves more investigation. Have they unearthed any specific reason as to why a team of such stature could fall so heavily?

"You have to look at it in context. Were we championship-ready? No, we weren't. I did point this out. The league climax for us was game eight in a 12-week period," said Ryan. "The league is amazing in that it transcends winter hurling and then straight into summer hurling, all in the middle of a very tight, hectic schedule.

"We're looking to move up the gears considerably as is every other team in the country. The Tipperary performance, the levels that we were at on league finals day, versus where we need to be when we meet Cork in Thurles on Sunday, will need to be different," he acknowledged.

"It was a general malaise. It was all over the pitch. There were fellas not reaching the levels we had hoped to reach. We simply weren't ready for the challenge that Galway brought. They (Galway) were, in comparison, absolutely 100 per cent ready.

"They were playing to a completely different beat compared to what we were able to reach on the day."

The timing of the defeat demands, though, that they dust themselves down quickly and reassert themselves.

"You have no choice after a defeat like that, other than ask, 'What's next'," said Ryan. "If that came in July or August or September and you are beaten. You do so much navel-gazing and planning and it takes you the whole winter to get over it.

"This is different. It's horrible but you have to move on. Yes, it was a loss, we didn't want it but we had exactly four weeks to get over it from the time the final whistle was blown up in Limerick. Our sights immediately have to turn to Munster and the start of the summer."

The greatest challenge they face as champions, Ryan feels, is one already referenced - the perception that they are better than they are.

"That's the greatest pitfall, that somehow ye play out matches without ever a ball being struck. That's never the case. The matches are won within the white lines. Anybody can beat anyone else in Munster. We love it.

"The Munster Championship is a fantastic competition. It's timeless. It conjures all sorts of images of fantastic men, absolute legends and all these Cú Chulainn like figures doing battle all over Munster.

"That's what the Munster Championship is and I genuinely believe any result that happens in Munster will not shock me. It is a very finely balanced competition. This time last year I would have said the same thing. Limerick had beaten us in two out of three meetings. This is real, this happens. They aren't fake results."

Ryan expects a forceful Cork challenge on Sunday, a repeat of last year's quarter-final which Tipperary won comfortably by nine points.

"It's a Cork team that has got a fair bit of flak during 2016 as far as I was concerned. What better motivation. If you keep kicking someone, you'll get a reaction. I believe Cork are in very good shape.

"They have a stronger panel than last year and I feel they'll be happy with their league campaign in terms of what they wanted to achieve."

Irish Independent

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