Thursday 13 December 2018

Liam Sheedy the perfect fit but things are far from rosy in Premier garden

Liam Sheedy celebrating after leading Tipperary to All-Ireland success in 2010. Picture credit: David Maher / Sportsfile
Liam Sheedy celebrating after leading Tipperary to All-Ireland success in 2010. Picture credit: David Maher / Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

The saying goes that "you don't know what you got till it's gone" but Tipperary knew exactly what they had with Liam Sheedy steering the ship from 2008 to 2010 and he was the orchestrator of something special for the Premier hurlers.

Taking over after the disastrous reign of Michael 'Babs' Keating, Sheedy picked Tipp off the floor and turned them into a well-oiled machine which eventually halted Kilkenny's 'drive for five' in what would be his last game at the helm.

His subsequent resignation - due to increased work commitments as he climbed the ladder within Bank of Ireland - just weeks after lifting Liam MacCarthy sent shockwaves around the country and left Tipp rattled.

Lar Corbett, the hat-trick hero in the 2010 All-Ireland final, was one of the men Sheedy had rejuvenated and in his recent 'Laochra Gael' programme, he beautifully summed up how his loss was felt among the Premier squad.

"That was a hard one to take because for the first time I'd say nearly in my life - well, in a number of years - I was after buying into every single thing that the management was after saying. We really believed in it," Corbett said.

"We believed that we were on a mission. This was our time. I remember Eoin Kelly ringing me and he said, 'Larry, they're gone.' I couldn't believe it. I couldn't believe it. I know now it sounds sad, but I remember starting crying."

In his book 'Standing My Ground', former goalkeeper Brendan Cummins described how he "just couldn't function" upon hearing the news and the scene when the squad assembled soon after for their team photo in Semple Stadium.

"That dressing room that night was as bad as the 2009 final defeat, you had grown men crying. We knew it was over. We knew it was the break-up of a couple that knew they were right for each other, but life had taken over."

Eight years have passed - Cummins and Corbett are well into retirement - but that dream couple are about to reunite against all odds and make another charge at an All-Ireland title.

Sheedy always maintained that "when you're in the job, you give it 100pc so his circumstances have clearly changed to make the leap back into management; either that or he felt the necessity to turn around the malaise of recent seasons.

They say you should never go back and when a manager returns for a second stint it is usually greeted with a fair degree of trepidation. Not so in Sheedy's case, however, and Tipp is buzzing at the prospect of his impending appointment.

Elder statesmen like Pádraic Maher, Noel McGrath, Patrick 'Bonner' Maher, Seamus Callanan and cruciate victim Brendan Maher will be re-energised by the second coming of their messiah.

There are also plenty of raw materials to work with as Tipp claimed All-Ireland minor honours two years ago and an U-21 title just last month - under Liam Cahill, one of the men Sheedy pipped to the post - so there's an abundance of young talent with which he can mould.

It's not all rosy in the garden, however, and there has been a stench of indiscipline surrounding certain quarters of the Tipp squad in recent years and eliminating that is likely to be one of the main reasons why Tipp chiefs turned to an experienced hand.

It must have been hard for the Portroe native to watch from afar as Tipp failed to build on their All-Ireland triumphs at senior and U-21 in 2010 with one Liam MacCarthy success in the following eight seasons - under Michael Ryan two years ago - a paltry return for the buckets of talent at their disposal.

Harder again must have been watching the wheels regularly come off outside of the white lines with discipline breaches garnering headlines and people talking about Tipp for all the wrong reasons. Nipping that in the bud will be one of his first actions no doubt.

Make no mistake about it, Tipp have got their man and optimism is high about what they could achieve but Sheedy has some tough calls to make from the outset.

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