Thursday 23 May 2019

Brendan Cummins: No one is safe as Michael Ryan must change ways or fall behind

Premier boss lucky that Tipp don't do knee-jerk reactions and he needs to take time to reflect

Tipperary’s Brendan Maher collides with Peter Duggan of Clare during Sunday’s clash in Semple Stadium. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Tipperary’s Brendan Maher collides with Peter Duggan of Clare during Sunday’s clash in Semple Stadium. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

Brendan Cummins

It seems strange to say it but the source of all Tipperary's ills didn't even happen this year, instead it can be traced back to last year's league final annihilation against Galway.

Tipp went into that game cock-a-hoop. Reigning All-Ireland champions having breezed through the spring campaign playing champagne hurling and rattling the onion bag at will. They were top of the pile. Then, all of a sudden, bang.

Galway turned their world upside down and laid down their gauntlet for the year ahead and while it was chalked down as a one-off, it has left scars which have never healed. Band-aids were placed on the wounds, but the same Tipp haven't risen to the surface since.

Pace is one of the most important assets in the modern game. We're not blessed with speed, particularly at the back, and you're constantly chasing your tail when you're struggling in that department.

The way teams approach Tipp has totally evolved since Cork opened up Ronan Maher in last year's Munster SHC clash.

Cathal Barrett's subsequent departure from the squad added fuel to a raging inferno regarding discipline issues, but fast-forward 12 months to the extra-time defeat of Limerick in the league semi-final and everything looked rosy in the Premier garden.

New players were unearthed during the league with an eye on four Munster clashes in 21 days down the line, but Michael Ryan's bubble was quickly burst in Nowlan Park when the Galway scars were re-opened by a Kilkenny side which looked to be in transition.

More baggage was added to a squad already overawed by expectation - trying to back up their All-Ireland triumph in 2016 - and they haven't been able to shake it since.

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Dublin footballer Cian O'Sullivan recently spoke of teams planning and talking about their game execution ad nauseam.

It was interesting to hear him explain how teams can talk about the performance they are going to deliver and plan every minute detail, but unless you've been there and done it, you don't have that comfort when surrounded by chaos in the dying minutes.

On the flip side of that, when you haven't been able to bounce back to your best like Tipp, a rot sets in and they have been shackled by those defeats.

Their remarkable run through Munster left jaws dropping but eventually, they ran out of luck and it was hardly unexpected.

Tipp's troubles really started the Friday night before the Limerick game with a new-look team which didn't capture the imagination of the Tipp public. It didn't excite them and when it backfired with a sub-par display, they were always playing catch-up.

As Jurgen Klopp says, "when a team wins, the players win but when the team loses, the manager loses" and Ryan was left with egg on his face and optimism in the county never got a chance to build.

It could have been so different yesterday had Jake Morris - who has been a breath of fresh air and more energy like that is badly needed - hit the net because it would have been curtains for Clare. Instead, the following 18 seconds turned their season upside down with Ian Galvin and Clare the benefactors.

I remember when Clare beat us at a similar stage in 1999. I spent that whole summer wondering about my own position, questioning where we were going under Nicky English and whether we had it in us to do anything.

We turned it around the following year and in 2001 we climbed the mountain and this current crop will be no different.

Now isn't the time for the Night of the Long Knives, however. It's time for calm reflection and Ryan should have some breathing space.

He's lucky he's working in a county that isn't prone to knee-jerk reactions, although a fresh impetus is needed in his backroom team to deliver something different.

Ryan will be hurting more than anyone - he was crestfallen after the game - and it'll feel like forever before they can get back training.

But it should give them time to make radical changes. The style of play is the first thing which must be altered.

The way they are playing long ball into the forwards adds significantly to their difficulties. It saps your confidence when you have to fight for every single ball that comes out of the air and of the 113 clearances made from defence over their four games, they lost 80.

If you've a team lacking in confidence, you play through the lines and get clean possession. Tipp are not going anywhere hitting long balls when not gifted with aerial brilliance and that will have to change as it just doesn't play to our strengths.

It's no coincidence that when Tipp got flowing this year - particularly in the first half on Sunday - those snippets were played through the lines and that fluid Tipp hurling, where skill is the premium, was allowed to flourish. If that's the focus in 2019, they are going places. If not, they're going backwards.

This is a huge opportunity for everyone involved in Tipp hurling to hit the reset button and Michael Breen is my solution for the No 3 jersey having excelled in that position at minor level. Something new has to be tried.

Any player who doesn't get a phone call to come back into the squad later this year can't have any complaints based on this year's showing and every player should be afraid of their lives.

The competition in the Tipp club championships should be on a different level - it should be the best of all the Munster counties this year given their early exit - and every player should be champing at the bit to get the chance to play for Tipp, particularly those aged between 19 and 23.

There are 15 Tipp jerseys up for grabs come January 1 and no one is safe.

Irish Independent

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