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Tipperary mastermind O'Shea shaped by Cruyff's methods

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The Kilruane native is a fascination given his unusual methods like operating training
sessions without cones or a stopwatch but it’s impossible to talk of the Premier’s success without mentioning his name. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The Kilruane native is a fascination given his unusual methods like operating training sessions without cones or a stopwatch but it’s impossible to talk of the Premier’s success without mentioning his name. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

The Kilruane native is a fascination given his unusual methods like operating training sessions without cones or a stopwatch but it’s impossible to talk of the Premier’s success without mentioning his name. Photo by Brendan Moran/Sportsfile

Eamon O'Shea grew up idolising Johan Cruyff with the Dutch soccer legend helping to shape his principles on how hurling should be played.

Cruyff developed the philosophy of 'Total Football' in the 1970s with one of his beliefs being that "to be able to touch the ball perfectly once, you need to have touched it 100,000 times in training" and that is something which O'Shea has never forgotten.

The Tipperary coach doesn't hide his "love of the ball" and believes that it "has to be central to everything" with creativity all over the pitch one of the many by-products of being comfortable with the sliotar in hand.

"I don't believe that my backs shouldn't shoot, I don't encourage it but I do encourage that they learn and that they get into positions where they can shoot," he said at a GAA Coaching Webinar this week. "You shouldn't limit creativity to the three guys on your inside forward line. Creativity is a sense of ownership within the team and if your corner-back or your goalkeeper doesn't have it then it's unlikely that you're going to have the end result at the other end of the pitch.

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"Allow your corner-backs to be creative, we want the ball back so when you make a tackle to win the ball in the full-back line, now the goal is on and now it's your creation and it's important that everyone feels that they have that creativity."

Such thoughts are an insight into the mind of a creative genius who has played a central part in Tipperary's All-Ireland SHC successes in 2010 and '19 under Liam Sheedy, although he downplays his own role.

The NUIG professor celebrates "the players who take ownership on match day" and humbly declares that his own role is blown out of proportion.

"My role is much less than what people would be led to be believed. People would sometimes ask, 'How did you do that?' and I would say, 'Well, I didn't actually do that, that's how the players interpreted what they felt they should do'," he said.

The Kilruane native is a fascination given his unusual methods like operating training sessions without cones or a stopwatch but it's impossible to talk of the Premier's success without mentioning his name.

He helped the likes of Lar Corbett and Séamus Callanan - both crowned Hurler of the Year under his coaching - to flourish in front of the posts and he places great emphasis on getting players to talk about the game.

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Technology

"Luckily, I'm not on any WhatsApp groups because I can't handle the technology but they do tell me that WhatsApp is where players talk a lot so I say to them, 'If you're talking a lot, why don't ye talk about the game particularly?'" O'Shea said.

"'Why don't ye talk about how ye relate to each other and what kind of ball ye like and stuff like that?' They love playing hurling so why not talk about it? You may have to correct them as coach.

"As Brian Clough famously said, 'What do you do if somebody doesn't agree with you? I listen to him for 20 minutes and then I tell him it's going to be done my way.' There's a little bit of that as a coach but it's important to give them some element of control."

Talk of sweeper systems - as utilised by Davy Fitzgerald's Wexford - and their influence is an aspect which O'Shea has never obsessed about as he feels players will always find a solution if encouraged to do so.

"When I look at the pitch, I don't see that there's seven backs or eight backs, I just see grass and I see lines. It doesn't matter if there's eight or nine players, there's always grass somewhere," O'Shea said.

"One of the things is trying to allow your players to see that a bit. There's no problem in training if you only have 15 players playing six against nine or whatever number of players you have and you'll find your players will work that out really quickly."


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