Sunday 18 August 2019

Donnchadh Boyle: 'Tipperary need their old guard to summon the spirit of 2010'

Young guns who delivered All-Ireland title nine years ago remain central to Sheedy's ambitions

Liam Sheedy, lifting Liam MacCarthy with Michael Ryan (left) in 2010. Photo: Sportsfile
Liam Sheedy, lifting Liam MacCarthy with Michael Ryan (left) in 2010. Photo: Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

When Liam Sheedy was in the running to take charge of the Tipperary senior hurlers for the second time late last year, he sought the advice of his old friend and outgoing manager Michael Ryan.

Both men had been there for that memorable 2010 campaign - Sheedy as manager and Ryan as selector - when they recovered from a ten-point defeat at the hands of Cork in Munster to win the All-Ireland and halt Kilkenny's 'Drive for Five'.

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The young stars of that team are the senior men in the current squad.

Paudie Maher, Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath and Seamus Callanan all started that harrowing day in Cork but have since put down eight more seasons and been rewarded with just one more All-Ireland title.

From working under Sheedy and Eamonn O'Shea as well as his own spell in charge, Ryan knew that generation intimately. And Sheedy wanted to know if they had more to give. He left their meeting with confirmation of what he already suspected- there was more in the tank.

"They transformed my life in 2010," Sheedy said earlier this year. "The younger guys I had in 2006 as minors probably have a few years left in their careers so if I didn't come back and join this group now I probably wouldn't get a chance to work with those players I worked with across 2008-2010 so if I could have found the time, if there was any group I owed it to (it was them) … they were really good to me previously."

Séamus Callanan. Photo: Sportsfile
Séamus Callanan. Photo: Sportsfile

As fate would have it, nine years ago they got back on track with a win over Sunday's opponents Wexford - then managed by Tipp man Colm Bonnar - in a qualifier game.

Incidentally, the Slaneysiders will have no survivors from the team that started that day. The aforementioned four will line out for Tipp and that could have been more but for the serious knee injury picked up by Patrick 'Bonner' Maher while the luckless Michael Cahill is also out, having broken a knee cap after just coming back from a cruciate knee injury.

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Back in 2010, All-Ireland senior and U-21 titles were delivered in the space of six days. A forecasted bright future for the Premier never really came to pass but those long-serving players will be needed if Sheedy's Tipperary are to prevail this weekend.

Sheedy's brought them and the rest of the squad along gently. They didn't pull up any trees in spring and he was sanguine when they lost away to Wexford in the league in February. It was a defeat that meant they had won just two of their previous 11 games in league and championship.

Padraic Maher. Photo: Sportsfile
Padraic Maher. Photo: Sportsfile

"We are ten or 11 weeks out from where the real fun and games begin," Sheedy told reporters afterwards.

Given Tipp exited the 2018 championship at the earliest possible stage but won the All-Ireland U-21 title, it might have been tempting for him to turn to youth. Even this week, Jake Morris produced a huge moment for the county as they won the Munster U-20 title.

But Sheedy was rewarded for his faith in the old guard as Tipp blitzed Cork in their championship opener at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Callanan is their top scorer from play with 6-14 to his name. Noel McGrath has registered 1-15 so far this summer. Brendan Maher hit the ground running after a career-threatening knee injury and is odds on to win an All-Star with his namesake Paudie also in that conversation.

But whatever helped them recover from that defeat in 2010 will be needed in spades on Sunday.

Wexford come into this game undefeated in the championship with their Leinster final win over Kilkenny looking all the more impressive in light of the Cats' performance against Cork in the All-Ireland quarter final.

Sobering

Tipp endured a sobering Munster final defeat to Limerick and had a less than convincing display against Laois last time out. As Ryan put it earlier this week, it's not ideal preparation for as game of such importance.

"You are still looking for our guys to go out there and deliver a confirmation that we haven't gone away or that we're back on track, we just didn't see it (against Laois). It's a disadvantage as far as I'm concerned heading into a semi-final looking for form instead of understanding that form is building."

Life without 'Bonner' Maher has been difficult so far. This week Colm Bonnar - who was in charge of Carlow for their defeat to Wexford in Leinster - warned what sort of game Tipp can expect.

"Bonner Maher's style is what Wexford are; every one of them," he told the 'Tipperary Star'.

"They will work so hard - they will win balls, they will take you on, they will pass it on and they will create scoring opportunities. It will be like marking 15 Bonner Mahers out there."

Tipp's experienced players have dug it out before. Sheedy and Co will need them to do it again.

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