Friday 24 November 2017

Jackie Tyrrell: 'This just would not happen in Kilkenny'

Former Cats star Tyrrell praises 'cut-throat' Ryan after Barrett's controversial exclusion

Jackie Tyrrell was speaking as Littlewoods Ireland launched their inaugural sponsorship of the All-Ireland Senior Hurdling Championship #StyleOfPlay. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Jackie Tyrrell was speaking as Littlewoods Ireland launched their inaugural sponsorship of the All-Ireland Senior Hurdling Championship #StyleOfPlay. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Michael Verney

Having played on one of the most celebrated sides in GAA history, former Kilkenny star Jackie Tyrrell knows a thing or two about the do's and don'ts when it comes to thriving at inter-county level.

So when the news broke late on Tuesday night that the services of Cathal Barrett were no longer required by Tipperary manager Michael Ryan due a discipline breach, Tyrrell immediately thought back to his trophy-laden days in black and amber.

It says a lot about Brian Cody's reign that indiscipline on and off the pitch has rarely filled any column inches as the Cats steer clear from controversy and avoid the trappings which success brings the majority of All-Ireland winners.

Even after their worst defeats during the Cody years, rumblings of misbehaviour among players rarely surfaced. "It was just a no-go area, it was a non-runner and lads knew that," as Tyrrell puts it. Players were rarely dropped, "not for disciplinary reasons anyway".

"I suppose we were blessed with great leaders and Brian created an environment where it was very much 'over to ye lads, the responsibility is with ye with regards to preparation and looking after each other'," the nine-time All-Ireland winner says. "When you come into an environment and see some of the greatest hurlers of the game and what they prepare and what they do, you just kind of mould into that and there was none of that messing or anything like that ever went on.

"All we wanted to do was hurl and win big games and we just thought anything like that got in the way, there was a time and a place for it and we just knew when that was and outside of that there was nothing else."

Tipperary's Cathal Barrett. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile
Tipperary's Cathal Barrett. Photo: Ray McManus/Sportsfile

That's not to paint them as angels, however, and when it came to a good blow-out, they were up there with the best. Winning All-Ireland titles came with such regularity that many suggested the novelty had worn off, but they knew the time and the place.

"When you do win them we knew what to do but coming back from the holiday, that was your cut-off point. We felt we celebrated as much as anyone else but then we also knew that our time there could be limited enough.

"We saw so many examples of great hurlers being disposed of, not for disciplinary issues, just for performance issues and you wanted to squeeze every bit out of it while you were there."

The 34-year-old can't put his finger on why Tipp have fallen so drastically but he feels Ryan's hard-line stance will help nip the current malaise in the bud and he expects them to stare adversity in the face, regroup and still make an All-Ireland final. "I didn't think one performance would shock them so much to drain every bit of confidence out of them and start doing silly things but I think they'll be in an All-Ireland final at least. Michael Ryan is still very impressive in fairness, even to make that decision is fairly cut-throat," he says.

"I'd say the profile of the player, if it can send shockwaves around the GAA world, I can imagine what it would do to the Tipperary lads. They will feel they're in a corner now and they'll feel that with poor performances and rumours coming out of the camp, that they need to bounce back and I think they will. They've a bit of time now to pull this together and get things right in their camp and they're still hugely talented and a dangerous team."

With little cover in the full-back line and serious holes being exposed after conceding 5-48 in their past two games, the James Stephens clubman feels it's a gamble to exclude Barrett, a player he rates highly with favourable comparisons made with outstanding Kilkenny defender Paul Murphy.

"He's a shut-down man there, he's their best corner-back, he's an All-Star. They'll really need him when it comes to big games and when it comes to nailing down top corner-forwards, Cathal Barrett is your man. He's aggressive and he offers so much to that Tipperary team. He gives security there and it'll be interesting to see how it unfolds.

"As regards attacking ball, as regards first touch, as regards shutting good corner-forwards out of games, he's on a par with Paul."

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