Sunday 22 April 2018

Michael Ryan and his Tipp troops facing another lengthy winter of discontent

Disappointed: Tipp boss Michael Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile
Disappointed: Tipp boss Michael Ryan. Photo: Sportsfile
David Kelly

David Kelly

Michael Ryan slips busily into his chair as if he has been chased into the media room by the trailing echoes of silence from the dressing-room.

Soon he knows that winter's torments will be upon him as, for the fifth time since 1965, the Premier have failed to retain an All-Ireland title.

Ryan is merely the latest to supervise a doomed quest that has eluded better and worse managers than he.

However, he will nevertheless suffer the same recriminations.

It could, of course, have been so, so different; we could, of course, be returning next Saturday.

However, that would only have been the case if - among all the other scatterings of ifs and buts and maybes - John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer had managed to do from way out wide beneath the roof of the Hogan in the sixth minute of injury-time, what Joe Canning had done from beneath the roof of the Cusack in the fifth.

Nobody, though, can play the role of Joe Canning but himself.

And so Ryan sits before us in an amphitheatre of regret, no matter that his side contributed so handsomely to a lurching tale of daring, punctuated by a stroke of artistry from a hurler doused in genius.

"Needless to say we have a very disappointed bunch in our dressing-room. That is what you do. You put your best out there, you do your absolute best. Nobody knows the result of a hurling match," said Ryan.

"Otherwise, you wouldn't get 60,000-odd here to shout their teams on. It was a very finely balanced game right throughout. There was literally nothing in it.

"What a fantastic score Joe Canning pulled off at the end. It was fantastic. He is a heart-breaker. It is not his first time.

"This is the exact reverse of what happened last year. We beat them by a point. We lost by a point in 2015. We are no stranger to these tight games with Galway.

"They were really, really good. So too were our guys. A great bunch of fellas. They tried so hard to stay in that game and get something out of it. It just wasn't to be."

To the neutral, if one could exist in a feral game that tugged at the emotions, Galway seemed vastly superior until they conceded a goal - on a day when they met an orthodox front six for the first time this summer.

Slightly stunned and with Canning cowed for fully a half-hour, a more ruthless Tipp, backboned by their own formidable last line of defence, could have stolen a third-quarter march.

Uncertainty, though, hobbled them.

And it was the ultimate irony that having finally secured the back of their house, their front men chose the very same afternoon to display such wildly uncharacteristic hesitancy and indecision.

It seemed to sum up the hesitancy of an entire campaign. Regrets,as with a few refereeing decisions he didn't agree with, there were more than a few...

"I'd say I'd have several when I get down to look at it. Look, every half-chance that we spurned, some of our decision-making," said Ryan.

"That is really what will occupy our minds for the next couple of months, the ones that got away from us.

"It's always such, any time you lose a match, you are looking at what went wrong and could we have tipped it back in our favour once or twice.

"This is what will haunt us over the winter, those half-chances and did we make good decisions.

"And in that game of fine margins, beaten by one point, we will certainly be saying to ourselves, lads, in those situations, take your points.

"Give us a bit of a break and if you could, eke out a bit of daylight, but that was very hard to find out there."

Near darkness shadowed the Tipp bus home through rumbling rain-clouds; the grumbling from the locals will form a deluge in the weeks and months to come, it is certain.

"These boys will bounce back in 2018," Ryan said, as if his defiance alone can will it so.

Irish Independent

Sport Newsletter

The best sport action straight to your inbox every morning.

Editor's Choice

Also in Sport