Sport Hurling

Wednesday 26 April 2017

Kelly eager to copy Cats by repeating title success

Forward star hails Sheedy 'positivity' as Tipp earn redemption after '09 loss

IN THE bowels of the stadium, where their families and loved ones gather beside the team buses, is where the most poignant stories first emerge after All-Irelands these days.

Long after Tipp had so convincingly dethroned hurling's modern-day 'Kings of Swing', and the ticker-tape had rained down on them, and substitute Pat Kerwick had grabbed the mic for a rousing rendition of the 'Galtee Mountain Boy' before they eventually danced around their lap of honour to the anthemic strains of U2's 'Beautiful Day', Benny Dunne eventually emerged quietly and was met with warm hugs.

Earlier, Tipp manager Liam Sheedy had a special word for Dunne, a man whose family of brothers have repeatedly laid down their limbs for Toomevara and Tipperary hurling.

Dunne's dismissal was seen as one of the turning points of last year's final loss to Kilkenny and Sheedy admitted: "Benny getting the last point today really struck a chord with me because I felt so sorry for that young fella last year.

"We actually made a promise to each other in the Burlington after the game. I said 'Benny, don't worry, this time next year we'll have another result', and to see him getting his opportunity and putting the ball over the bar left a little bit of a lump in the throat alright."

And while Dunne was keen to stress that he only played a tiny cameo in yesterday's victory, he readily admitted there was a lot of individual, and collective, hurt from last year.

"I got a red card in an All-Ireland final and that's soul-destroying stuff, but I'd like to mention the people who stuck by me after that, all the people that sent me cards and text messages and rang me, and my family and my wife," he said.

"It was as if you wanted the world to end, but I made a decision that if the lads wanted me I would go back and when they brought me back on the panel I was delighted."

Last year's defeat was firmly exorcised by yesterday's resounding victory -- as was the one to Cork in Munster this summer -- and it was clear that Tipperary had used their critics to bond even tighter.

"In the first week in June they said we didn't do back-doors, we didn't do 'qualifiers', we didn't do anything. I think we've seen today what this team can do and how they've developed," their manager said defiantly.

Did the fact that it was Kilkenny again actually help them?

"We felt we were in a very good position," Sheedy said. "The 'five-in-a-row' brings its own pressure and we just focused on our game and got our just rewards.

"We had the hurt of last year and we were a little bit under the radar, more like down below sea-level probably. That suited us because we got consistently better throughout the season and we grabbed our second chance with both hands.

"The best has a habit of bringing the best out in you. I know it was only a small thing but, even the league match back in February (against them), a tight game in Thurles and we won it by four points and we just felt that this opposition was going to bring the best out of us today."

Shocked

Failing to goal in last year's final had shocked them, he admitted, but they still felt they had the forwards to do it and the half-time message was to stop conceding so many frees.

When Noel McGrath rattled the net after half-time he and others pointed to their foreheads. What did that mean?

"Just make sure that six inches between your two ears doesn't run away with you because you can't switch off against a quality team," Sheedy said. "No one should forget what that team (Kilkenny) have achieved. They deserve huge respect."

He revealed that he had given Henry Shefflin a sympathetic pat as he passed him at half-time but said Tipp had never allowed themselves be distracted by whether or not the Ballyhale star would start or finish the game.

"We knew their centre-forward and centre-back went off in the semi-final so we knew it was business as usual," he said of Shefflin's early exit.

"The lift for us was seeing our players coming onto the field, seeing John O'Brien coming over to Seamie Callanan and seeing Seamie going in and cracking over the points -- that's what we could control."

Sheedy's "positivity" was singled out by captain Eoin Kelly as one of the key ingredients in their success.

Kelly (28) immediately called for the county to repeat it, starting with next weekend's U-21 final.

"Tipperary have won five All-Ireland titles in 40 years and I'm sure a lot of families would have lost members in that time -- babies have grown to be men," he said. "If there's anything we can learn from the Kilkennys or Corks of this world is to get back there again next year."

Kelly said his younger team-mates are "oozing with class and coolness".

"They came into the dressing-room, they'd All-Ireland medals at minor and U-21 hanging off them but there was never any talk from them about what they'd achieved, it was hunger, hunger, hunger," he said

And of hat-trick hero and fellow veteran Lar Corbett he chuckled: "He's loving Croke Park. Three goals today, three goals in last year's semi-final. Lar has been an exceptional leader since Liam came in, but we've leaders all over the field.

"You don't get to back-to-back finals without that."

Irish Independent

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