O'Shea – more than a hurling manager
'We could be doing more to ensure that jobs are available for these guys'
IT'S 10 days out from his first championship game in charge of Tipperary's senior hurlers and Eamon O'Shea is chewing the fat with reporters at the Horse and Jockey.
Jobs for players, the impact of managing Tipp on his own personal life, Hawk-Eye, picking a starting 15 and the Gaelic Grounds are just some of the topics covered during the course of a conversation that rolls along at a fair old pace.
O'Shea is an engaging character, with a definite air of mystery about him.
His enthusiasm for Tipperary hurling and the game in general shines through, and his players say that O'Shea's energy is infectious. Even if they tried not to let him, O'Shea will find a way to get under their skins.
The players trust O'Shea and, in return, he provides them with opportunities and an environment in which they can flourish. He wishes he could do more for his unemployed squad members and the students who find themselves without work for the summer.
"I certainly feel I have some responsibility to mentor some of these guys," he says. "You can't always find them jobs but I do think we could be doing more to ensure that work is available for these guys."
Because O'Shea is much more than a hurling manager. He's a professor in the school of Business and Economics at NUI Galway and his work there is so cutting-edge that he has authored or co-authored 15 books and monographs and had over 70 papers published in peer-reviewed journals.
O'Shea takes a genuine interest in players on a human level – he says "there is a big effort needed to ensure that people are supported."
He's not afraid to take a gamble either, as evidenced by his decision to parachute Kieran Bergin (27) into a senior debut at left wing-back against Kilkenny in a National League final.
"I'm very happy for him, he was put in a difficult environment and in the first 5-10 minutes watching the game, there was a lot of play over that side of the pitch," O'Shea recalls.
"I think they scored 1-2, not from him, but the guy just stepped up. He is older than other guys, you can't beat a bit of life experience to see you through. I have great time for him and have no doubts about him at all. We knew that whatever happened, he would give a good account of himself."
O'Shea's starting line-up to face Limerick next Sunday will make for interesting reading. He's gone with a rotation policy in the goalkeeping position during the National League and there are other questions to answer out the field.
But what O'Shea expects, and demands, from his players is flexibility and the ability to adapt to a variety of positions. Pigeon-holing is not for him. He prefers freedom of expression, in line with his own thinking and personality.
"I am very happy with the way training has gone," O'Shea confidently proclaims. "We've had consistent training with a consistent run at it; I'm happy that the team will give a good account of themselves.
"I keep saying if it is good enough, it is good enough. If it is not good enough, then the team that beats us will have played better than us."
He adds: "The real enjoyment happens in about an hour's time when I go into training and see the ball moving pretty quickly and that's where it all comes together.
"I know you guys come to match day and it is all about match day, but for me it is between 7.30 and 9.0pm and I see the ball moving as quick as it can.
"The amount of work I have to do is probably less than I was doing the last time (as coach) in terms of physicality. A lot of the work is done organisationally, in terms of players being fit and being right."