O'Dwyer backs steely Premier to match Cats in physical stakes
Published 30/08/2016 | 02:30
When Michael Ryan succeeded Eamon O'Shea as Tipperary boss, he made no qualms about saying that extra physicality and route one hurling would be top of his wish list.
While O'Shea's influential attacking coaching bamboozled Kilkenny six years ago, Ryan hopes to beat the three-in-a-row-seeking Cats at their own game in Sunday's eagerly-awaited All-Ireland final.
In the semi-final, Padraic Maher's massive shoulder on Joe Canning nearly sent the Galway ace into the Hogan Stand and it was symbolic of a change in Premier mentality - there would be no backward step in 2016.
Just 12 months previously Maher was flailing over a ball under intense Galway pressure and desperately whipped the sliotar out over the sideline. Under Ryan, Tipp are the ones bringing the intensity and stamping authority on games.
For ex-Tipperary senior Ryan O'Dwyer, their new-found physicality is no surprise, however.
Having watched Michael Ryan, a teak-tough corner-back, don the blue and gold during his playing days, the all-action Dublin forward isn't surprised with the "steel" which he has demanded.
"Tipp have a bit of steel to them this year. For as long as I can remember Tipp have had fantastic hurlers, but sometimes lacking a bit of steel. This year there's a different mentality, like 'I'm a good hurler, but I'll still throw my head in wherever it matters'," O'Dwyer says.
"I think Mick Ryan can take a lot of credit for that. If you can remember Mick Ryan when he was hurling, let's just say he took no prisoners. I think that mentality is being bought into in Tipp. It's the same with (former rugby star) Denis Leamy being involved as well."
Tipp are thriving in adversity and against a Limerick side which has broken Premier hearts in recent years, they came out the other end despite John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer's early sending off leaving them with just 14 men for an hour.
But they ground it out and while Patrick 'Bonner' Maher is toiling as hard as ever in attack, the Lorrha/Dorrha powerhouse is no longer ploughing a lone furrow as others willingly share the load.
Tipp clicked in their five-star Munster final demolition of Waterford but while everything turned to gold in the Gaelic Grounds, digging out a result in thrilling semi-final against Galway was just as impressive.
With many stars off colour, they eked out a win to tee up a Premier explosion on All-Ireland final day.
All of their mental and physical strength will be needed when they face hurling's acid test, however, as standard bearers Kilkenny have held the upper hand over them in the last decade.
Brian Cody's men always find a way to win but Tipp won't want for motivation as they look to banish their own demons. Ryan has laid the physical foundations but they'll be tested to their limits in the face of Hurricane Kilkenny.