Tuesday 12 December 2017

Breheny: What can McGeeney teach Tipp?

Football man's appointment will bewilder fans in county brimming with 'winners'

Kieran McGeeney has gone from Kildare footballers to assist his native Armagh and also Tipperary hurlers
Kieran McGeeney has gone from Kildare footballers to assist his native Armagh and also Tipperary hurlers

IN the six years that Kieran McGeeney managed the Kildare footballers through a largely trophy-less landscape (O'Byrne Cup and Division 2 titles scarcely count), Tipperary's hurlers won one All-Ireland and four Munster titles.

When Tipperary interrupted Kilkenny's title torrent in 2010 and followed it up six days later with a massive win over Galway in the U-21 final, some of the giddier elements in Premier-land predicted long-term dominance.

It didn't happen.

Tipperary won the next two Munster titles, but were forced back into subservience by Kilkenny at All-Ireland level.

This year, Tipperary lost to Limerick in Munster before being ejected from the All-Ireland race by the Cats.

The unusually early elimination left Tipperary manager Eamon O'Shea with plenty of time for reflection.

Four months on, he has offered a glimpse of his debrief by inviting McGeeney in as a performance consultant.

McGeeney had already committed to his native Armagh as No 2 to Paul Grimley but will also slot in the Tipperary assignment.

While that strange arrangement might raise some eyebrows in Armagh, his arrival in Tipperary will cause even more surprise among locals.

The idea that Tipperary, winners of 26 All-Ireland and 40 Munster hurling titles, should look to a former Armagh footballer for guidance just three years after winning the senior/U-21 double will irritate some, bewilder others and shock most of the blue and gold supporters.

After all, it's not as if Tipperary are noted for a self-confidence deficit.

Indeed, there have been times when that has been a drawback, giving players an inflated view of their own talents; but, when properly channelled, it's a plus.

What many in Tipperary will be asking is this: why the need to bring in an ex-Armagh footballer, who won one All-Ireland medal, when they have so many home-grown success stories?

Clearly, McGeeney's managerial term with Kildare impressed O'Shea, who described him as "a proven winner".

Unquestionably, McGeeney has a winning mentality but, presumably, so does every other manager.

As for his term in Kildare, it's impossible to make a definitive assessment.

Did he take the squad to the limit of their talents? Were the consistent extensions of the championship season into August down to his careful extraction of every last ounce of achievement from a modestly talented group?

Did he get the absolute maximum from good two-mile chasers who would never make Cheltenham Gold Cup horses, however much the Kildare public wanted it?

Alternatively, was there something more in them which he didn't quite reach?

Each of the six seasons sent out confusing messages, which adds to the riddle.

On the plus side, reaching five successive All-Ireland quarter-finals, plus one semi-final, was a vast improvement on the previous returns since the introduction of the qualifiers.

Conversely, Kildare's disappointing yield in Leinster (three defeats by Dublin, one each by Wicklow, Louth and Meath and only one appearance in the final) hinted at a mental block on the provincial circuit.

This is not a criticism of McGeeney, who may well have mined all the gold that was available to him. Quite simply, we don't know.

Against that uncertain background, O'Shea's decision to bring him aboard with Tipperary is curious, especially since he is heavily involved with Armagh.

"If we can draw on his experience now and again on the management side and on the individual player's side, it will be very good for us. He's hoping to learn from us as well," said O'Shea.


Tipperary supporters will be surprised to learn that the camp is providing teaching practice but, on a broader scale, they will be wondering why a man whose main commitment will be to Armagh has been brought in.

If O'Shea wants to 'draw on the experience' of a respected GAA figure, would it not have been easier to bring in Liam Sheedy, 'Babs' Keating or Nicky English, three Tipperary men with considerably more managerial achievements than McGeeney?

And if Tipperary wanted to look outside, Ger Loughnane, Cyril Farrell, Eamonn Cregan and Michael Bond, who between them steered teams to seven All-Ireland hurling titles, don't live very far away.

A final point.

"He (McGeeney) is coming to work with us this season in the whole area of performance improvement," said O'Shea.

Isn't that the team management's job?

Irish Independent

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