Saturday 19 October 2019

Donnchadh Boyle: 'Shrewd move strengthens Sheedy's Premier hand'


Back to the future: Liam Sheedy lifts the Liam MacCarthy cup alongside Eamon O'Shea (right) and Michael Ryan after beating Kilkenny in 2010. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Back to the future: Liam Sheedy lifts the Liam MacCarthy cup alongside Eamon O'Shea (right) and Michael Ryan after beating Kilkenny in 2010. Photo: Paul Mohan / SPORTSFILE
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

Late on Tuesday night, Twitter began to rumble with the news that Eamon O'Shea was back in tow with the Tipperary hurlers.

And within a couple of hours, a county board statement confirmed the news.

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O'Shea is on board in a "support role", with the statement making it clear that he won't be a selector.

But perhaps the esteem in which he is held was revealed in Sheedy's statement, where he revealed that the Kilruane man was his first port of call when he considered stepping back into the position.

"Eamon was one of the first people I talked to when it came to considering stepping back into this role again and we have remained in close contact since. He is a passionate Tipperary man and having him on board at any level is a great boost," Sheedy said.

They say never go back. And given that O'Shea has served as a coach and manager to many of the players currently in the Tipp squad, there is a touch of the Premier men going back to the future.

However, his CV speaks for itself. Based in Galway city, where he is a professor of economics in NUI Galway, O'Shea is credited with working hard for hurling around Salthill - where football has traditionally dominated.

When the long-serving Galway minor hurling manger Mattie Murphy guided Galway to an All-Ireland minor title in 2009, he included a Salthill hurler - Tadhg Haran - in his squad for the first time he could remember. Murphy laid the credit for that squarely at the door of O'Shea.

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The Monday after he helped Tipp to that thrilling 2010 win, things could hardly have been better for Tipperary hurling.

They had just denied their great rivals Kilkenny - who had produced perhaps the greatest team of all time - a piece of history with a fifth title in a row. And they did it with a squad packed with exciting young talent such as Padraic Maher, Brendan Maher and Noel McGrath.

Just six days later those players would dish out a 25-point beating to Galway. It remains the largest winning margin in an U-21 All-Ireland final. For a few weeks, the outlook could hardly have been rosier.

But even in those heady times for Tipp hurling, O'Shea's intentions were a cause for concern.

The morning after the night before, the lobby of the Burlington was rife with speculation that O'Shea was gone. As it turned out, the rumours were true.

O'Shea stepped away but was soon back with the Premier, managing them for three seasons - from 2013 to 2015 - and guiding them to a Munster title.

Even after he moved away, O'Shea was in high demand. At one stage, he was linked with a role in Micheál Donoghue's backroom team as he put together a ticket to take charge in Galway.

Donoghue had been involved with the Tipp set-up under O'Shea.

Sheedy also drafted in him in when he was in charge of the Munster interprovincial team.

Centrally, too, he was in demand. Croke Park turned to him on a number of occasions. The GAA asked him to help develop the game in Donegal under their hurling development plan, while he was also part of the ESRI report that was published late last year which aimed to clarify the extent of demands on the time of inter-county players.

And now he's been brought back in with Tipp once more.

Sheedy has been making all the right noises since his return to the helm.

Last Sunday, they suffered their second defeat in three games when they went down to Wexford. However, he insisted the project was heading in the right direction.

"We went out with the intent to win the game," Sheedy said.

"If you don't it's not the end of the world but if you asked me what's most pleasing, it's the way we are approaching them and applying ourselves and I think there's a real drive in that jersey.

"I'm really impressed and we are showing flashes in our play that are very good. But we are still on a steep learning curve and we have a bit to go, we are far from the finished article."

Fun and games

"We are 10 or 11 weeks out from where the real fun and games begin."

Given that Tipp's injury list stood at 14 at one stage and that there is no relegation in this year's league, losing two of three games is nothing to dwell on.

However, it won't be lost on Sheedy that wins have been hard to come by for this squad of late.

Since the extra-time league semi -final win over Limerick on March 31 last year, they have won just once in eight outings across league and championship, which came when they beat Clare in the opening round this year.

And it doesn't get any easier when Kilkenny, surely chastened by their defeat to Limerick last weekend, come to Thurles on Sunday.

Still, things are taking shape. Sheedy expects his injury list to ease considerably in the next few weeks and now O'Shea is on board. The band is getting back together again.

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