Saturday 20 January 2018

That team will go on to achieve something, insists O'Shea

Tipp boss believes Premier troops will bounce back following latest defeat to their great rivals

A dejected Pádraic Maher shows the pain of defeat after Tipperary's All-Ireland final loss to Kilkenny. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE
A dejected Pádraic Maher shows the pain of defeat after Tipperary's All-Ireland final loss to Kilkenny. Photo: Piaras O Midheach / SPORTSFILE
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

The morning after an All-Ireland final and for the defeated team, the assembled media are about as welcome a sight as an undertaker's hearse.

At Tipperary's base yesterday morning, reliving the agony of 24 hours earlier isn't anyone's idea of fun. Polite 'no thanks' are the currency of the hotel lobby as bleary-eyed players emerge from the lifts.

Around them business carries on as usual because it has to.

Supporters continue the post-mortem. County board officials are handing out new shirts to the various players for their homecoming in Semple Stadium and deciding on the best attire to fulfil the day's duties.

Some head for breakfast, others for the bar. Eamon O'Shea is outside in discussion with Lar Corbett before returning to grant an interview. His chat with Corbett wasn't a discussion about retirements. This isn't the time. And in any case, O'Shea insists there'll still be a strong Tipp presence in the coming seasons.

Developed

"I don't know and I wouldn't like to be calling time on anyone," he said. "But I think the team has developed into a really strong unit. That team will go on to achieve something over the next three or four or five years and I'd be confident that the team is strong mentally."

O'Shea made his belief in his team clear in an emotional post-match interview on Sunday, hailing his players for persisting in difficult circumstances and offering perspective.

"I have a dressing-room full of men down there who fought the battle to the end, who didn't flinch, who. . . things didn't go their way and yet the team kept going," he said. "You don't always win but when Tipp play now, we really try until it's no longer possible and I think they can be proud of that."

If there was protective tone to O'Shea's words on Sunday, perhaps it's because of the high-wire act that has been Tipp's season where they flirted with disaster and chased glory.

Against Dublin in the league, they could just have easily ended up in a relegation play-off as a quarter-final.

They coughed up a rare win in Semple to Limerick and looked to be heading for a short summer against Galway in the back door.

That they prevailed through all those scenarios gives O'Shea confidence that they will be back for more despite Sunday's result.

"It was a great journey. Sport is about journeys and sometimes they end with trophies and sometimes they don't. Yesterday it didn't but it was still a good journey and it will stand to these boys as they go through life," he said.

There was little wallowing in what-ifs and what-might-have-beens, and there are plenty of talking points such as 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer's free in the drawn game, any of the three penalties Tipp were awarded in the two matches.

On the day, Paddy Stapleton reasoned that they were outplayed. Tipp couldn't reach the levels of the first day, while Kilkenny, with their experience of All-Ireland final replays, improved.

"They got a very good start to the second half, built up a little bit of a lead and probably pulled back a little, leaving more space up front," Stapleton said.

"They covered the area in our half-forward line quite well. They played a little bit better in the second half than us.

"It probably comes from the start-ups, puck-outs, things like that and their shape is good and it allowed them to get onto the breaks a lot more in their own back line.

"They weren't left isolated too much, which left them able to create space and come forward with the ball so it probably all comes from being well set up on our puck-outs and then able to get a platform to go forward."

Stapleton's thoughts have already turned to the future and he insists the project is far from finished.

Negative

"We've progressed," he said. "There was probably a lot of negative talk about our character, prior to this year and during the year. I'm not saying it's the media, it's in general chit-chat.

"The last time we were in All-Ireland finals, a lot of those players were very young and they were our leaders back then even, the Brendans, the Paudies, the Noels.

"Now they have grown up a little but to be even more mature.

"Certainly they have all come on and we have all come on a little bit ourselves in terms of taking more leadership. It's our team at the end of the day and Eamon and the boys are just facilitating it."

At times, Tipp have operated at the highest altitude. They've also shown they can have bad days too. Making sure there is more of the former is the next step.

"You are not pleased just because you get to the final when you lose," Stapleton said. "That game was there for us, the last game was there for us.

"Kilkenny are the same, I'm not saying we could have dominated them but we had the chances.

"I don't think we've answered everything we want to answer. I think going forward that is very important that we do.

"It's up to each individual to look inside themselves and see what they want, if they want to come back and give it another rattle and build on the experience of this year and the structures we've put in place, then we can kick on no problem.

"But it is up to ourselves over the next three months to get into the right frame of mind, get rid of this.

"We realise we have a good team, there's other good teams out there too so (there's) no problem that we will kick on again."

O'Shea went to the Kilkenny dressing-room and paid tribute to the achievements of Kilkenny and in particular Brian Cody and Henry Shefflin.

But whether he'll be back to go toe to toe with Kilkenny wasn't up for discussion. He batted off any questions regarding his future, though Stapleton was unequivocal on whether he should return.

"There's not a man in the dressing-room that wouldn't want Eamon to stay on. He gets us and we get him. He has a fantastic personality, a great motivator, has a great vision of hurling and the way it should be played in the style of Tipperary.

"He's in sync with ourselves and we would love if he could stay on. We need him and hopefully he needs us as well."

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