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'They've raised the bar' – Tipp boss Liam Sheedy relishing League opener against champions Limerick

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Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy is relishing the chance to take on Limerick. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy is relishing the chance to take on Limerick. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy is relishing the chance to take on Limerick. Photo by Piaras Ó Mídheach/Sportsfile

Liam Sheedy is stepping into the unknown this weekend when his Tipperary side face off against All-Ireland champions Limerick on Saturday evening (5.30), but the Premier supremo can't wait to find out where his troops are at against "the best team in the country".

There is no tougher task than opening their league campaign against John Kiely's standard bearers at the LIT Gaelic grounds, but Sheedy is eager to see how his side are shaping up, having only returned to collective training in recent weeks.

"I don't think there can be any bad result for us on Saturday night. We're playing the best team in the country, they're even money favourites for the All-Ireland, they're there for a reason and they've taken a lot of cups over the last three years and they're a fine side," Sheedy told Tipp FM.

"For us, it's great to get the opportunity to go into Limerick and pit ourselves (against them) early on, if there's a few lads that we might be wondering where they sit in terms of our overall thoughts and plans, this is an opportunity.

"But certainly no matter what the outcome, I'm very happy with the squad I have and very happy with the team I have, I think we'll get great preparation over the course of the League.

"It will be an opportunity for me to see some new faces and understand exactly what the make up of my panel is and ultimately you want to get to the middle of June and have a fair sense of what your championship line-up is.

"It's a great draw, they've raised the bar, no question. They were outstanding champions last year across all competitions and that's what you face into, but isn't that the beauty of sport, these are the matches you want to be playing.

"If you want to find out where you're at, what better way to find out. It's a great stepping stone as we kick off the journey in 2021. I'm really excited about the fact that we're going in to play the All-Ireland champions in their own back yard.

"It'll be a really good sense of where this team is at right now. We're still a long way out from when it gets really serious and I think it's a lovely time to find out how are some of these younger guys doing, how are we at overall and what's the structure of the team and how are we shaping up."

Sheedy admitted that the official return to collective training since April 19 has been a balancing act as inter-county managers find themselves in the unusual situation of commencing league action with no challenge games under their belts.

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"What I'm trying to manage in the early stages is not to push too hard and try to ramp it up too quick because you don't want to end up with half a dozen guys breaking down and I'm very conscious of that," the two-time All-Ireland-winning manager said.

"You can't go too hard when you bring them back because you're conscious that they haven't been in that hustle and bustle and they haven't been in contact over the last five or six weeks so it's a new experience.

"We would feel that there's a danger if you go straight into it hammer and tongs that you could end up with a lot of injured guys so we're trying to time it and it's probably a slower build than what it would be previously coming up to the start of the league.

"Internal matches are fine but you'd love to have played a few challenge games to see where you're at, but the fact that we've five league games in the run up to championship, it's a nice build up."

The opening round of League fixtures will also see the new rules to combat cynicism in hurling being trialled for the first time in a competitive environment.

The denial of goal-scoring opportunities (within the 20m or semi-circle) by a pull-down, trip or careless use of the hurl will result in a penalty, yellow card and 10 minutes in the sin bin, with Sheedy expecting it to add a "different dynamic" to games.

"If it was in last year, we nearly would have got a penalty with Seamie (Callanan, against Galway) and we could have won the match so it might be a year too late," Sheedy quipped.

"I think it raises a very valid point, 10 minutes... you see we tried to play 25 minutes last year (against Galway) without a player and it's tough going.

"That's going to be a different dynamic and you're really going to have to defend well and you'll have to defend smart so it is going to rule out any cynicism in the game, no question, so we're well aware of what's required to be a defender this year."

The full interview with Liam Sheedy can be accessed here:

https://open.spotify.com/episode/4R5s7FRZjVwOUEPwHuihIh


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