'The reality is we will need new faces to feature in 2020' - Liam Sheedy fired up for back-to-back All-Ireland bid
Munster Senior Hurling League Round 1: Clare 2-17 Tipperary 1-19
Anyone expecting Tipperary to rest on their laurels as All-Ireland champions would have received a rude awakening had they braved the cold to watch the Premier go through their warm-up routine on the back pitch in McDonagh Park, Nenagh yesterday.
Winter hurling is poles apart from Croke Park on a summer’s day and yet there was Liam Sheedy right in the thick of things bellowing encouragement to his inexperienced outfit.
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Most managers would throw the gloves and woolly hat on before taking a backseat given how little is up for grabs but Sheedy seems adamant that 2020 will not be a typical Tipperary All-Ireland SHC defence.
Six times they have failed to complete back-to-back All-Ireland triumphs since last achieving two-in-a-row in 1964-65 – only once making it back to the final once during that time, in 2011 – and Sheedy is intent on rewriting history once again and making it lucky number seven.
The Portroe supremo walked away having ended Kilkenny’s five-in-a-row dreams in 2010, never getting the opportunity to defend their crown and it won’t be for the want of trying if that trend is not bucked next year.
Sheedy has consistently re-iterated that “if you stand still, you’ll be passed out” and it’s an ominous sign for their pursuers that Tipp can see where improvements can be made ahead of another assault on Liam MacCarthy.
A one-point defeat to Clare in their season-opener will be long forgotten when next year rolls around and Sheedy realises change is needed on and off the pitch if they are to climb to the summit again.
"It’s about getting new guys on the pitch. The reality is we will need new faces to feature in 2020 and I saw some really encouraging signs in terms of the lads that put their hands up," Sheedy said of lively new faces like Craig Morgan, Paddy Cadell, Jerome Cahill and Paul Flynn.
"We feel that our performances have a little bit more to go, we know that if we’re going to be competitive in 2020, we’ve got to find a new level. We have loads to work on.
"There were periods in the All-Ireland semi-final and final, parts of our play in Munster that were very good but there was also parts of our play that we’d really want to work on."
The fresh injection of energy coming from the returning Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher is also welcome as the Lorrha-Dorrha attacker hits all his targets on the road back from a cruciate knee ligament injury last June.
“You’re probably looking at the end of February (for his return). You probably won’t be surprised to hear he’s ahead of target because that’s the way ‘Bonner’ works. He’s a great guy and has done everything right,” Sheedy said of the two-time All-Star.
It would be no surprise should the 30-year-old match the remarkable recovery of his Tipp team-mate Brendan Maher from the same injury and several signs suggest that this could be a different Tipp in 2020.
Brian Lohan will also be hoping for a different Clare next year after a dismal season which saw the Banner fail to negotiate their way out of Munster before parting ways with Gerry O’Connor and Donal Moloney.
Lohan couldn’t ask for much more than the battling qualities shown as they came from behind to secure the spoils, marking his first competitive outing as Clare boss with a victory.
“You’re looking for a bit of spirit from the guys that are out there. A lot of good guys from both teams didn’t play so the first thing you want is a bit of endeavour and spirit and we got that,” Lohan said.
While admitting that his late appointment has left them chasing their tail somewhat with pre-season training, Lohan is confident that “we’ll make it up” as they look to hit the ground running from the off in the New Year.
It was ‘The Jason Forde Show’ throughout as the Tipp forward lit up a bitter December with a sublime attacking display as the home side raced into a 0-6 to 0-3 lead with just three of the All-Ireland-winning team on show.
The Banner county’s Diarmuid Ryan was similarly impressive at the other end before being forced off with a leg injury, although Lohan was confident that it wasn’t too serious.
Ian Galvin fired the game’s opening goal in the 13th minute with Clare team-mate Seadna Morey following up with another four minutes later as they led 2-6 to 0-10 at the break.
Tipp got off to the perfect restart as Fox finished smartly to the net in the 40th minute while Flynn impressed with three second-half points but Niall Deasy and Podge Collins kept the Banner alive with a handful of scores apiece before subs Cathal McInerney and Aidan McCarthy sent over late scores to seal the comeback victory for Clare.
SCORERS – Clare: N Deasy 0-7 (5f); I Galvin 1-2; S Morey 1-0; P Collins 0-3; D Ryan 0-2; A Fahy (f), A McCarthy, C McInerney 0-1 each. Tipperary: J Forde 0-14 (7f, 0-2 s/l); T Fox 1-0; P Flynn 0-3; M Breen, W Connors 0-1 each.
CLARE – A Fahy; J McCarthy, J Browne, E Quirke; C Malone, K Hehir, D Fitzgerald; S Morey, D Reidy; I Galvin, N Deasy, D Ryan; M O’Neill, C Guilfoyle, P Collins. Subs: A McCarthy for Ryan (inj, 20), R Taylor for Galvin (47), A Shanagher for Morey (49), C McInerney for O’Neill (54), D McMahon for Guilfoyle (57).
TIPPERARY – Paul Maher (Moyne-Templetuohy); J O’Dwyer, J Moloney, C Morgan; A Flynn, R Maher, R Byrne; M Breen, P Cadell; M Kehoe, T Fox, J Cahill; W Connors, J Forde, P Flynn. Subs: C Darcy for Fox (52), M McCarthy for Cahill (60), Paul Maher (Kilsheelan/Kilcash) for O’Dwyer (63), B Heffernan for Moloney (67).
REF – C Lyons (Cork).