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O'Shea's 'new' Tipp team out to plough path to redemption against fierce rivals


Tipperary manager Eamon O'Shea.  Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile.

Tipperary manager Eamon O'Shea. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile.

Tipperary manager Eamon O'Shea. Picture: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile.

IT'S a snugly fitting narrative, this Eamon O'Shea theory.

One which will enjoy plenty of airings over the coming months, layered with every further indication of Tipperary's vital signs returning to normal regularity.

O'Shea, Tipp's team trainer when they finally climbed into Kilkenny's orbit, memorably – albeit momentarily – taking over as hurling's top canines in 2010, is back in charge after a rocky spell under Declan Ryan, during which the Premier County ceded much ground to the Cats.

"That was the one thing that Eamon emphasised to us when he came in – that it wasn't going to be the same as 2010 or 2009," explained vice-captain, Brendan Maher this week. "He is in a new role, he was a trainer back then, it is a different role for him, he's a manager now.

"People will say 'they are playing a lot like they did back in those days' but we don't see it that way. Eamon is always saying to us we are a new team now and we are trying to become a good team again."

Maybe Maher didn't mean the last sentence like this, but the belief in Tipperary was that they weren't such a unit these past two frustrating seasons.

Ryan, still a legend in Tipp for his playing exploits, is also known for an autocratic style of management, one which – according to insiders – didn't sit so well with players who had had such a vocal say in team matters in the construction of the team that took Kilkenny down.

Under Liam Sheedy, leadership wasn't just encouraged, it was nurtured and harvested. Every second under Sheedy's watch was, according to the players, designed to be productive and usually was.

Last year, a tough training camp in Bere Island after the Munster final win over Waterford – but in the midst of a round of club matches – spawned much private grumbling amongst those same players.

Tactically too, the old and new are said to be geometrically opposed.

Ryan was pre-occupied with early and direct delivery of possession into the Tipp full-forward line, whereas O'Shea appears to be restoring the more nuanced, expressive style of play with which they became both synonymous and successful.

And then there was Lar-gate.

"I think everyone has to forget what happened in the championship last year," says DJ Carey. "What happened last year was a farce. And I hope that will never be repeated by any team ever again in the future.

"Tipperary are an excellent hurling team. They didn't go bad overnight. They got their tactics wrong. They were wrong on the day.

"If they had won, it would have been genius.

"But it didn't happen. And that's not Tipperary hurling.

"It's not Kilkenny hurling... it's not hurling."

In the league final of 2009, Kilkenny beat Tipperary 2-26 to 4-17 after extra-time in a match as fraught with tension and bursting with physicality as any until the All-Ireland final between the same teams four months later.

Martin Comerford, Henry Shefflin, Michael Kavanagh and Declan Fanning were all sent off.

Tipp scored four goals and thundered into a Kilkenny team who had beaten them by 17 points only five weeks previous and in Tipperary, it is considered one of the most vital stops on that particular road map to success.

A win in Nowlan Park on Sunday would surely be a landmark on the route to redemption, particularly with a man linked undisputedly to that time, albeit in a new guise.

"As a manager, you are maybe in contact with players a lot more outside of the training pitch, whether it be a phone call or talking inside in the dressing-room," says Maher. "I'm sure it was a learning curve for him as well but one I'm sure he's enjoying and he's doing a brilliant job so far."

Tipp have made five changes from the team which defeated Dublin in the semi-final. Darren Gleeson, Paul Curran, Kieran Bergin, Conor O'Brien and Eoin Kelly will start in place of Brendan Cummins, Paddy Stapleton, Donagh Maher, Jason Forde and Pa Bourke.

TIPPERARY (v Kilkenny): D Gleeson, M Cahill, C O'Mahony, P Curran, K Bergin, P Maher, C O'Brien, B Maher, S McGrath (c), S Callanan, L Corbett, P Maher, S Bourke, E Kelly, N McGrath.