Monday 23 October 2017

'I'm amazed at times with the current Tipperary team'

Liam Cahill has noticed huge change, writes Jackie Cahill

Tipperary sharpshooter Seamus Callanan
Tipperary sharpshooter Seamus Callanan

Jackie Cahill

It was around 10.15 on Tuesday evening when Liam Cahill finally arrived home in Ballingarry.

He had left at 8.30am for work with Top Oil and at 5.0, he was at the Anner Hotel in Thurles to oversee a recovery session with his dual players who featured for Tipperary in last Sunday's Munster minor football final.

They drank tea together and looked ahead to the next challenge - Limerick in next Sunday's hurling decider.

Shortly after 7.00, Cahill was at Tipp's Dr Morris Park training base, standing in the breeze at training as he provided local radio with an injury bulletin.

It's safe to assume that he was pleased to turn the car for home after the session.

That's been Cahill's life since he took charge of the Tipperary minor hurlers in 2013. There have been hard lessons along the way, notably when Tipp lost against Clare last year in Ennis with 12 players finishing the game.

For a proud man like Cahill, that one hurt, but he absorbed the lessons and vowed to come back stronger.

His predecessor, William Maher, was a hard act to follow. Maher had presided over a 2012 All-Ireland success and in Tipperary, as Cahill knows, you're judged on silverware.


"I say this on behalf of myself and the management that we let down last year's crop of minors," he says,

"We were put in place a bit late and I was very green coming into the job. There were so many aspects of it that I wasn't aware of and I probably went down a blind alley in some ways.

"There wasn't a lot coming from the year before, only four that we inherited, but this year thank God we've carried a sizeable panel of 35 for as long as we could and developed ten or 12 for next year.

"Whoever is there, Liam Cahill or somebody else, will be able to put their hands on 15 young fellas who have experienced the minor intercounty grade.

"We've learned a lot and I've learned an awful lot. It's a massive job, a difficult job balancing the demands on these young players.

"Apart from the dual players, you have colleges, schools, clubs. Sometimes they're being managed by three or four different people, which is quite difficult.

"There are other pressures with exams but these young fellas want to give you everything and sometimes due to circumstances outside their control, they can't and you have to develop brilliant patience and not let stuff eat you up.

"You want to have the team and panel every night regularly, to work on them, but it just doesn't happen at minor level. It's just not possible."

Cahill was one hell of a player in his day. In 1996, he was an All Star corner-forward and captured an All-Ireland senior medal in 2001 as member of Nicky English's panel.

Low to the ground and hardy, Cahill was the archetypal inside man, schooled in hard knocks and well able to dish them out too when required.

After the minor game on Sunday, he'll take his place in the stands and watch Seamie Callanan and 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer wage war on Waterford.

Callanan and O'Dwyer are the latest incarnation of Pat Fox and English in Tipperary senior shirts, or Eoin Kelly and Lar Corbett from the 2010 vintage.

Tipp love their double acts and Cahill is a huge admirer of the men who bagged 2-11 between them in last month's Munster semi-final against Limerick.

"I'm amazed at times with the current Tipperary team, the way their forwards in particular seem to find space," he says.

"I could never find that space in my day. The norm at the time was 15 on 15 and you banged into it.

"Now you see the likes of Seamie and Bubbles popping up on opposite sides of the field. And you have other players out the field with the awareness that they're doing that. That's not something that comes together overnight."

We suggest that it's a cyclical thing in Tipperary. It took English three years to win the All-Ireland, Liam Sheedy the same before reaching the promised land in 2010.

Cahill replies: "Even longer maybe. When it got going under Sheedy, they worked towards the 2010 All-Ireland.

"It's beautiful when it works out but when it goes wrong or the work-rate drops or the man doesn't get the head up to find a team-mate in possession, it can hurt you.

"It's not quite high-risk hurling but it's different."

Cahill laughs as he remembers the all too common days when invariably, the corner forward was the man beckoned to the touchline first if things were breaking down on the field.

He adds: "The old saying goes that when the ball goes wide over the end-line, the first person you blame is the corner forward.

"There's very little ball goes out over the line now, unless it's a shot from 60 yards and you're shooting for a score.

"Yet we're still able to create higher scores in matches, an average of maybe three goals per game and 18-20 points.

"The only thing that bothers me is the sweeper - it's a disaster for the game of hurling.

"It works for teams who are defensively-minded and that have a fear element of leaking goals. Sometimes it can lead to not so good viewing, that's the nature of the beast.

"The role of analysis and breaking down individuals and teams on the way they play is just part and parcel of modern day hurling and management.

"But it's still massively enjoyable to watch."

As he was.

Irish Independent

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