'He'd have thought there's no better time to come back' - John Mullane on Liam Sheedy's Tipperary vision
John Mullane has already gone on the record as stating that a Kilkenny win in Sunday’s All-Ireland final would make Brian Cody’s 12th Liam MacCarthy “the greatest achievement of all'.
But with Cody's old foe Liam Sheedy standing in his way as the nation gears up for 'Cody v Sheedy III', the Waterford legend has also hailed the impact of the returning Tipperary boss.
The two managers previously faced off at this stage of the tournament in 2009 and 2010 as the turn of the decade saw a hurling rivalry for the ages develop with further finals in 2011, twice in 2014 and 2016 following after Sheedy left the stage.
Kilkenny may gone on to be the more dominant of the pair, with 2016 being Tipp’s solitary Championship since, but it’s one apiece in terms of the head-to-head between the two bosses after Tipp avenged their 2009 defeat with victory the following season.
And Mullane believes the desire to finish the decade by leading a squad still top-heavy with the players Sheedy brought through in his last reign to another All-Ireland is what persuaded Sheedy to swap his seat in the Sunday Game studio for one on Sunday’s sideline.
"When they stopped the drive-for-five (in 2010), many were tipping them to go on and be the team of the decade. But they only pushed on to win the one All-Ireland in 2016 and possibly could have won it in 2014," the 2008 Championship runner-up told a special All-Ireland final preview edition of The Throw-In, Independent.ie’s GAA podcast in association with Bord Gais Energy
"The last couple of years Liam Sheedy would have been sitting back in the RTE studio saying to himself that this Tipperary team are underperforming. He was probably saying since he left in 2010 that a lot of the players that he had under his regime should have won an awful lot more.
"He'd have thought there's no better time to come back and end the decade by winning an All-Ireland. He’ll have stopped the drive-for-five and then added another All-Ireland."
The old adage of never going back is often trotted out in GAA circles and was certainly raised when Sheedy’s return was confirmed last September.
But Mullane always felt that the amount of Sheedy’s old players still in and around the panel was the key factor in his return.
And although those players are now at the opposite end of their careers than when Sheedy originally shocked them by quitting in 2010, their performances during the Munster round-robin and against Wexford in the semi-final have shown how strong the bond between the panel and their manager remained.
"He might have taken a risk in many people’s eyes but not in Liam Sheedy’s. He’ll have sized up the personnel that was in that Tipperary squad," Mullane concluded.
"He would have got the bug back fairly handy. The likes of Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath, Seamus Callanan, Padraic Maher, he'd have kick-started their careers."
"He'll have been telling himself there's another year or two left in these lads and most certainly another All-Ireland in them. That's why he took the decision upon himself to come back.
"They were very unlucky last year, the width of a post with Jake Morris away from qualifying in the top three last year. They weren’t too far away.
"He'll have seen what they did in 2016 and he would have said to himself there’s most certainly another All-Ireland in this team.
"If you said to Liam Sheedy and most Tipperary supporters in 2010 that you’ll win three All-Irelands across this decade, they’d have taken the hand off you. It’s not been achieved since the 60s."