Monday 19 August 2019

Michael Verney: 'No need for Premier panic as Liam Sheedy can learn lessons'


Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy, left, and coach Eamon O'Shea
Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy, left, and coach Eamon O'Shea
Plenty to ponder: Liam Sheedy may consider moving Michael Breen back to add pace to Tipperary's defence. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Michael Verney

Michael Verney

Considering what he inherited last September and the indifferent league campaign that followed, many were nominating Liam Sheedy's Tipperary to fall at the first hurdle and suffer elimination from Munster after the round-robin stages.

Any theory of their demise was blown out of the water with a swashbuckling display to leave Cork cold and three subsequent showings of their rude health installed them as All-Ireland favourites.

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Michael Breen. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile
Michael Breen. Photo: David Fitzgerald/Sportsfile

A Munster final defeat to Limerick last Sunday changed that, but it hasn't changed the job which Sheedy has done in his second coming. Much like one swallow doesn't make a summer, one bad performance doesn't define their season.

Crucially they have a chance to bounce back and Sheedy knows how to navigate his way through the backdoor more than most having went the scenic route to All-Ireland success during his first term in 2010.

Prior to last weekend, they had clocked up monstrous tallies of 2-28, 2-30, 3-21 and 1-22, with the 2-14 garnered against the Treaty paltry in comparison. That suggests an attacking malfunction, but their problems lie much deeper.

In Seamus Callanan, Jason Forde, John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer and John McGrath they have an attacking quartet which can tear defences to pieces - the one caveat being that they must have the ball.

They were starved of decent possession and were forced to watch the game largely as spectators, with the galling statistic that Nickie Quaid wasn't forced to make a puck-out between the 54th and 73rd minutes such was their irrelevance.

Of Tipp's 31 long puck-outs, they won a miserly six, as the absence of cruciate knee ligament victim Patrick 'Bonner' Maher - who adds the necessary substance to their attacking style - was sorely felt as they struggled under the dropping ball.

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That was a common theme during Michael Ryan's reign as they opted for aerial bombardment rather than stick passing through the lines and, worryingly, their distribution from short puck-outs and when under pressure in defence lacked any rhyme or reason and was lapped up by Declan Hannon and Co.

The space they were chasing in attack was negated as defenders struggled to break forceful Limerick tackles and they instead struck ball under pressure, with Cathal Barrett's absence robbing the full-back line of his energy and poise, as well as the half-back line being shorn of Brendan Maher's expert deliveries.

That won't be the case in the All-Ireland quarter-final - against Dublin or Laois - with the decision not to risk Barrett likely to yield fruit in the long run when they need the tenacious corner-back most.

"We only have two weeks to turn it around, but turn it around we will," Sheedy said of Sunday's defeat, before adding that "they are hurting right now, but for us the healing process starts this evening".

That healing process must start with the concession of 2-26 - it would have been much more were it not for brilliant goalkeeper Brian Hogan - and the issue of pace, or lack thereof, reared its ugly head once again, particularly in defence.

The Treaty soaked up every lesson from the 'phoney war' in Thurles two weeks previous as Peter Casey took James Barry on a tour of Limerick and never allowed him to settle. Barry Heffernan may be parachuted into that sector or Brendan Maher could make a permanent switch.

And what of Michael Breen? Ineffective at midfield, but with speed and skill to burn, could he be the solution to their defensive issues? It remains to be seen whether Sheedy has time to press the nuclear button and take such radical action.

Sheedy stumbled across his best team in 2010 with Pádraic Maher placed at centre-forward for a mid-summer challenge game before finding his natural home at wing-back and the Premier supremo will have to shuffle his deck to find the right combination.


Tipp's bubble is by no means burst, merely deflated, and they have not become a bad team overnight. And the faith which he has invested in the elder statesmen of the squad - which has been repaid in spades up until Sunday - is unlikely to change.

There has been limited game time for many of last year's U-21 All-Ireland winners, but when Sheedy looked over his shoulder with substitutes to make, there may have been another realisation that he is playing the best 15 players available. That will continue if eyes are on Liam MacCarthy.

While time to regroup was on his side nine years ago, that's not the case this year, but they will fancy their chances of disposing Dublin/Laois and Wexford to possibly set up a third bout with Limerick in the All-Ireland.

There the boot would be on the other foot and Sheedy will be the one who has to learn from his lessons. History has shown us that he is not one to make the same mistakes twice.

Irish Independent

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