Shock as Sheedy steps down
Sometimes it's easy to forget that lives exist away from the environment of the dressing-room.
Liam Sheedy's departure as Tipperary hurling manager yesterday, together with coach and selector Eamon O'Shea and Michael Ryan, was a stark reminder of that.
Like almost every other management team at that level in Gaelic games, Sheedy and Co didn't sweep into Morris Park -- Tipperary's training ground around the corner from Semple Stadium -- for 9.0am training sessions and carry out the business of running the Tipperary hurling team for the rest of the day before spending the rest of their evenings at home in the company of their families, pursuing other interests.
They dotted their only other interest around their working and family lives, no different to any other manager or indeed player.
In their parting statement, they outlined how those days often added up to 16 hours of activity. Making the presumption that work averaged eight hours a day, Tipperary business could often add up to another eight after that.
Not every day, it must be said, but most contained some aspect of Tipperary business. In the end, the balance could not be maintained because it was no longer a balance. It was an onslaught on their private lives.
It's food for thought for the GAA's director general Paraic Duffy as he grapples with the difficulty of putting together a discussion paper on the status of inter-county managers in the coming weeks.
To compete at the top level they have got to give up an inordinate amount of time each day. Does that level of commitment really deserve to continue without some form of remuneration?
Their departure makes you wonder how Brian Cody in Kilkenny or Mickey Harte in Tyrone can keep going for so long at the highest level. Maybe Cody hasn't needed to put in the same hours as Sheedy because his system has been up and running for so long and runs like clockwork.
But to catch, and overhaul, the greatest hurling team in history in just three years Sheedy knew he needed to do something really special, to pull out all the stops. And that meant a template where eight-hour 'working' days became the norm and family and work life had to suffer.
It was a template where attention to detail was sacrosanct, player welfare was paramount and the whole operation was executed with military precision. The core 12-man/woman team that Sheedy built knew their roles and carried them out efficiently. The man at the top of that management pyramid trusted them implicitly.
There were Saturdays when the three members of the management team would roll into Thurles and Nenagh and devote the day to meeting members of the playing and management staff individually to outline their needs and hear the relevant grievances. Each meeting might not amount to much more than 15 minutes, but collectively it ate heavily into their day.
No doubt there are other managers who can claim the same virtuous attendance record in the three years Sheedy never missed one training session. No one can ever recall him being late either.
Sheedy and his team rode a few storms to get to where they are now. Losing to Waterford in 2008 was a blow, Cork this year a disaster. But that defeat made them.
The costs of such an operation were an issue for some in Tipperary. In one year, from 2007 to 2008, the bill for running all Tipperary inter-county teams almost doubled and the murmurings at convention were well documented. But no one will raise their head above the parapet about cost when they sign off this year after the season they have just had.
The reaction in the hurling world is one of surprise. Tipperary had broken the dominance of Kilkenny and had added on an impressive All-Ireland U-21 title six days later.
That night, as Sheedy sat in the stand and watched Galway being put ruthlessly to the sword, he surely saw a new dynasty unfolding. Their future looks extremely bright. Predictions that they could win two of the next five All-Ireland titles were not outlandish.
They still could. But the steady progression of this Tipperary team over the last three years will be jolted by the management's departure. The players are understandably shocked at the development. They had expected the same atmosphere and environment when they walked back into training next year ready to defend their title. Right now, there is uncertainty. Avoiding the impression that this will be a 'poisoned' chalice for the next year will be difficult.
The baton in Cork when Donal O'Grady departed was passed on seamlessly to John Allen, and Pat O'Shea delivered a Sam Maguire for Kerry when Jack O'Connor left after the 2006 All-Ireland triumph, so the transfer of powers doesn't necessarily diminish a team.
The pressures of work must also be factored into the decision of all three to depart. Sheedy (40) has recently been promoted within Bank of Ireland to a position of greater responsibility; Ryan is also a bank official which, in the current climate, carries its own added challenges; and O'Shea is an economics lecturer in NUIG and the two-hour commute to Tipperary was always likely to end his involvement at the end of the three years. His departure may have brought influence too on the others to reach their decision.
For Tipperary, the news could be worse. Padraic Maher might have been emigrating to Australia or Noel McGrath could be deciding that hurling is no longer for him. It's not the end of the world to lose a management team but it is the end of a particular cycle that restored Tipperary hurling to extremely good health.
THE CONTENDERS: Nicky English
Inevitably Nicky's name will head all lists as it usually does when a vacancy arises in Tipperary. The manager between 1999 and 2002, his reasons for declining probably haven't changed. He's still Dublin-based and work commitments are significant.
More likely to remain on with the U-21s for another year after such a successful campaign that ended with a huge win over Galway in the All-Ireland final almost four weeks ago. Hogan was manager before in 2004 and 2005 and trainer during English's reign, but has effectively ruled himself out.
Coach to the U-21s this year and currently in charge of his own club team Toomevara. Laois were hot on his trail before they appointed Brendan Fennelly but he spurned them, which indicated that he might be clearing space for some involvement with Tipperary.
A name to be considered in any back-room team but perhaps not in the capacity of manager. The 1997 All-Ireland final midfielder and captain has taken up coaching in recent years and is involved with Tipp semi-finalists Clonoulty Rossmore.
The former Cashel and Tipperary defender managed the Premier camogie team to All-Ireland success. He had an unsuccessful stint with Newtownshandrum but guided Clough Ballacolla to their first Laois title in 2009.
Has the experience of working with the very successful Tipperary camogie team at the beginning of the last decade, with a trio of All-Ireland titles. Work commitments may preclude him from any involvement.