Sunday 20 October 2019

Comment: Pressure points evident all summer but Michael Ryan’s surprise exit gives Tipp time for ‘fresh thinking’


Michael Ryan has stepped down as Tipperary manager. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Michael Ryan has stepped down as Tipperary manager. Photo: Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Back in June, the Tipperary executive looked like they had beaten down the flames before they could really take hold.

The county had departed the stage at the earliest possible juncture that month and four championship appearances yielded two defeats and two draws.

Considering Tipperary were one of the favourites for the All-Ireland, it was perhaps inevitable that the brickbats would rain down on Michael Ryan and his squad.

West Tipperary chairman John O'Shea broke rank and on local radio insisted the management were "gone past their sell-by date".

"I think it was (a disaster) from the point of view we got to the league final, we learned absolutely nothing, in my opinion, going through the league," he said.

"(At) the conclusion we didn't have a full-back. Five changes for the Munster Championship. There was no consistency. I can't put my finger on it.

"I think that management team has gone past their sell-by date and I think they should do the decent thing and resign en bloc and the sooner the better because it isn't so many years ago when Declan Ryan was manager after winning two Munster Championships and the media in Tipperary were roaring for his resignation. Overall, there were a lot of decisions that weren't the right ones."

In light of that criticism, the Tipperary County Board moved quickly to back their man. Despite Ryan's reluctance to commit for another season in the wake of the Clare defeat that ended their season, the executive backed Ryan (right) and his team to the hilt.

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"In respect to recent queries, the Management Committee of Tipperary GAA County Board wishes to reiterate that following Tipperary's exit from this year's senior hurling championship, the position of the Tipperary management team is not the subject of any discussion or change," read the statement.

"The management team was appointed last September for a three-year term and have the full backing and support of the Co. Management Committee.

"Comments made by any individual(s), contrary to the above, do not represent the views of the Co. Management Committee and are therefore not to be associated with the committee or county board officers in any way."

The message was unequivocal. Ryan was the man for the job. After extending his term until the end of the 2020 campaign, perhaps they had little choice. But until yesterday's development, there were no real suggestions that Ryan was ready to walk away.

After all, Tipp and Ryan could point to a number of factors that went against them. First of all, the fixture list wasn't kind and saw them play four championship matches in a row under the new gruelling format.

One of their star men Seamus Callanan struggled for full fitness. And when it came down to it, their season turned on 18 frantic seconds against the Banner from when Jake Morris's goal effort hit the post to Clare's major at the other end sealed their fate.

It should be noted that Tipp did get the rub of the green when Austin Gleeson was adjudged to have carried the ball over his own line in their draw with Waterford.

Ryan also came in for criticism for the team he picked for the opening-round clash with Limerick which included a handful of debutants.

Afterwards, Ryan stated the squad would invoke a media black-out, a decision that was soon revoked. In hindsight, it might have been the first sign of the pressure they were feeling.

Tipp would put one foot in the grave against Cork when they trailed by nine points at half-time. They'd recover to draw but it still felt like all was not well.

By the time they went out to Clare, they had probably produced their best performance of the championship but it was too little, too late. That defeat led, eventually, to yesterday's development.

Last night the rumour mill in the county whirred. The development, it said, had come about after moves from the playing squad seeking a change.

The resignation statement from management including Declan Fanning, John Madden and Conor Stakelum didn't leave any obvious hints of discord within the camp describing the players as "extraordinary young men".

"Having carefully considered what is in the best interests of Tipperary hurling and our current crop of players, we believe the time is now right for a change of direction at management level," the statement read.

"It is our hope that a change in management will bring fresh, new thinking to ensure Tipperary continues to compete for top honours in the coming years... And finally we wish to thank the players who have worked tirelessly with us and given their all for Tipperary.

"These are extraordinary young men whose passion and commitment for our game has made working with them so enjoyable and rewarding for us every single night we trained or played our game."

When Noel McGrath met the media during the week, he spoke of a desire to improve on 2018 and of the little things that didn't go their way. That will have to happen under someone else's watch.

The timing of the decision will give the new man some chance of catching the county's hurling championships, which are set to resume next weekend.

Ryan departs the stage having won All-Irelands as a selector, manager and player and having served for nine of the last 11 seasons in one form or another. For Tipp, attention now turns to finding the right man for the job.

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