Sunday 19 November 2017

Sheedy: Strength in depth key to Tipp's back-to-back drive

Ambassadors Neil McManus of Antrim, Kildare’s Paul Divily and Galway’s Conor Cooney sit between Liam Sheedy and HDC Chair Paudie O’Neill at the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge launch. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Ambassadors Neil McManus of Antrim, Kildare’s Paul Divily and Galway’s Conor Cooney sit between Liam Sheedy and HDC Chair Paudie O’Neill at the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge launch. Photo by Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

If anything can insulate Tipperary hurling people from expectation, Liam Sheedy reckons it should be bitter experience.

Sunday's league final clash with Galway is the immediate aim but the 2010 All-Ireland-winning manager accepts Tipp are in a good place to be heading up the steps again in September.

Having managed to win for most of the spring and combine that with some experimentation is a "dreamland" scenario for a management team trying to keep desire sharp, according to the Portroe man.

"I think the biggest thing Michael (Ryan) has learned over the course of the league is the strength that he has in his panel," Sheedy said, at the launch of the Bank of Ireland Celtic Challenge, which sees 1,400 teenage hurlers from across all 32 counties play in competition this summer.

"If (new) guys are going out and the team is losing, then (the established players) probably say to themselves, 'Well I can't be done without here'. But if guys are missing and the team are still winning, it's dreamland, it really is from a management perspective. So it seems to be a really competitive arena. You can just imagine you're playing to get into the 15 or the 26. I can just imagine 'Bonner' Maher, he didn't make the 26 at the weekend. I can just imagine... I wouldn't like to be facing into him at training this week!

"That's the cauldron that you create. I think really it's not the first 15 that wins All-Irelands, I feel, it's probably the second 15."

Tipp's second 15 looks in rude health. They pulled six points off the bench in last weekend's league semi-final win over Wexford but their subs had a bigger impact than that stat alone suggests.

The future looks bright too. Last year's minor crop looked ahead of the rest on their way to All-Ireland glory while Our Lady's, Templemore secured Croke Cup glory for the first time in 39 years last month.

But given the county's habit of "going to sleep" after winning an All-Ireland, Sheedy reckons no one in Tipperary will be getting ahead of themselves.

"Going back to the last time we put it back-to-back, it's the '60s, so I don't think anyone is under any illusions here," he explained.

Tipperary manager Michael Ryan. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile
Tipperary manager Michael Ryan. Photo by Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

"We're not a county that does back-to-back very well. So the scars are there for everyone to see in that regard. We have a habit of going to sleep after we get one. So I think there'll be an awareness of that within the county.

"Irrespective of what the tradition is from back in the '60s, the reality is that we were only winning one in 10 since then and that's the harsh reality.

"But I think this group are hell bent on looking to change that. I think it can be used as a real driving force for the squad. They haven't won a league title since 2008. To get a chance to get that medal on Sunday... it's definitely in the top three medals you can get as an inter-county player so they have the chance on Sunday to do that which I'm sure they'll go hell bent for. Then they've got the build-up to a Munster and All-Ireland championship.

"I think the way they done it last year, coming from a quarter-final, all the way through Munster, it was a number of years since that had been done (1966).

"It's a long journey, quarter-final, semi-final, final… This team is in a really good place and it's the strength of the panel I like."

Sheedy admits it took Tipperary longer to claim another All-Ireland than he expected when he parted the scene after helping them halt the 'Drive for Five' back in 2010.

"If you go back to the last number of years, they've probably been close to getting a few more (All-Irelands), so the return of one over the last six years is a poor return I would say, based on the talent that they have at their disposal.

"There's a few years it got away on them, Hawk-Eye and one or two other things. The margins were really, really tight but they just came up that little bit short. I certainly got the sense last year after they won the match, I thought they looked calculated, that they seemed like a bunch that weren't happy to just win one.

"I think they see what Kilkenny have done over the last number of years and the way they've dominated the sport and I certainly feel there's a drive within this group to try to put it back-to-back."

But after a comfortable campaign in Munster last year, Sheedy warns they will get it much tougher this time around.

"They have a long journey to travel, there's a lot of hurdles they have to climb. They have to climb three hurdles in Munster alone. The Munster Championship was surprisingly easy for them last year. I don't see it being that easy to navigate this year."

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