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Ryan: 'I cannot afford to get it wrong'

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Michael Ryan: “Unlike a brand new appointment, I think I am not entitled to much grace”. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Ryan: “Unlike a brand new appointment, I think I am not entitled to much grace”. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Ryan: “Unlike a brand new appointment, I think I am not entitled to much grace”. Photo: Sportsfile

Michael Ryan is a year-one boss but doesn't feel like one. The Tipp supremo has gone all the way to September in his maiden campaign - and maybe just as well, he surmises, because he doesn't qualify for honeymoon period excuses.

Why? Because, when you factor in the three years spent as part of Liam Sheedy's management team, and another three working alongside Eamon O'Shea, he already had served a six-year 'apprenticeship' before assuming Premier command last autumn.

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Tipperary manager Michael Ryan and defender Pádraic Maher celebrate after their All-Ireland SHC semi-final victory over Galway. Photo: Sportsfile

Tipperary manager Michael Ryan and defender Pádraic Maher celebrate after their All-Ireland SHC semi-final victory over Galway. Photo: Sportsfile

Tipperary manager Michael Ryan and defender Pádraic Maher celebrate after their All-Ireland SHC semi-final victory over Galway. Photo: Sportsfile

"Unlike a brand new appointment, I think I am not entitled to much grace," Ryan candidly accepts.

Tantalising

"I am in my seventh year involved. If you search around the county you will get plenty of opinion on that - that I am here too long. To be fair, and I acknowledged this at the beginning too, I cannot afford to get it wrong ... I have been here long enough."

Luckily enough, then, he has hit the ground running - retaining Munster and claiming a white-knuckle win over Galway to secure passage to Sunday's All-Ireland SHC decider against ... well, who else?

Kilkenny have been the omnipresent other half in Tipperary's tantalising pursuit of Liam MacCarthy, dating back to Sheedy's arrival as manager.

Ryan was a selector (with O'Shea as coach) when they lost that epic final in 2009, but also when they gained free-scoring revenge in 2010. That management team had departed by the time Tipp became the hijacked holder in 2011 ... but Ryan was back as assistant to O'Shea when another classic, the deadlocked All-Ireland of 2014, was followed by more Kilkenny-laden despair in the replay.

It was announced, in the wake of that defeat, that O'Shea would serve out a third season before Ryan stepped up to the main job.

There was "positive and negative reaction" to this new departure.

"The idea behind it was always to have continuity," he explains.

"Too much change of personnel - and I would have experienced it as a player - is not conducive to building a team or laying the foundations for the future.

"The model we all aspire to is what they have achieved in Kilkenny. The kind of longevity Brian Cody has achieved is unbelievable."

And now he seeks to end the Cody juggernaut as it hurtles towards three-in-a-row.

He spells out clearly why Tipp have usually suffered in these head-to-heads.

"They have trumped us each day on intensity. That is the initial bar we have to reach," Ryan stresses.

"We know exactly the levels that will be required and to sustain it over 72-74 minutes. It is not born out of past losses to Kilkenny. This group is doing it for themselves.

"This is a new journey for them. They are having a fantastic run. We need to concentrate on the here and now, not past results against Kilkenny. Kilkenny's victories are confined to history - fantastic history for them; poor history for us, unfortunately."

Except in 2010, of course, when Ryan was a selector of the team that ended Kilkenny's famous drive-for-five. He is loath to answer whether his philosophy is closer to that of Sheedy or O'Shea.

"What you would have seen in 2010 was a really good mix of the intensity, the high work-rate that Liam brought to the table, but twinned to the work Eamon did as coach. It was with a very talented bunch of players, let's acknowledge that," he points out.

Freedom

"We opened up the minds of the players to play the game, trust their skill and use space ... that is really what we hope to recapture, that blend of hard work and intensity and yet giving guys plenty of freedom to express themselves.

"Don't for a second think we achieved it every day in that era between 2008 and 2010. When we got it right it was perfect, really good, in my opinion. It was never a given." But for his current involvement, Ryan would be on the pitch this Sunday for the Jubilee team unveiling of the '91 kingpins from Tipp.

"A pity, but I wouldn't trade it for the opportunity to be with these lads," he says, insisting that his own game was "pedestrian" when measured against the players he now manages.

"I am gobsmacked at what they're able to achieve with such little time on the ball. It is the same with other teams as well," he enthuses.

"What Waterford and Kilkenny produced in Thurles in the semi-final replay was phenomenal, particularly in the opening 25 minutes. It is a total effort they are giving."

And Sunday?

"I have little doubt but it will be a great spectacle. When Tipperary and Kilkenny meet you generally get all the best attributes of hurling - incredible skill, huge intensity or real man-to-man clashes and a battle fought tooth and nail.

"The given here is that Kilkenny are past masters at this. They know the level and they will get to it. The variable is the rest of us. Will we get to the level? Can we sustain the level? Can we break through any perceived glass ceiling that is there?"

Time to shatter it ...


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