Monday 18 December 2017

'You can’t please everybody but what you can be is fair'

After a challenging couple of months Ryan is confident Tipp are on upward curve

Michael Ryan feels his Tipperary team are ‘growing in confidence’ but says they have to improve if they are going to beat Galway. Photo: Sportsfile
Michael Ryan feels his Tipperary team are ‘growing in confidence’ but says they have to improve if they are going to beat Galway. Photo: Sportsfile

Jackie Cahill

"If you were to be a slave to all forms of media - social media, print, radio, whatever - the tail will be wagging the dog."

Those were Michael Ryan's words in February 2016, when he spoke to reporters at the Tipperary Supporters Club launch.

They're as valid to Ryan now as they were then, particularly in light of his decision to ignore a growing clamour for Cathal Barrett's return to his senior hurling panel.

Ryan isn't a social media user. He doesn't have a Facebook page and he's not on Twitter.

As he said himself, Ryan tries to steer clear of all form of media as best he can.

Still, he might have been aware of former Kilkenny star Jackie Tyrrell's insistence that Tipp won't win the All-Ireland without Barrett.

John Mullane expressed a similar view on these pages and in last Monday week's column, former Tipp goalkeeper Brendan Cummins called for Barrett's reinstatement.


But at last Thursday evening's media event ahead of next Sunday's All-Ireland semi-final with Galway, Ryan slammed the door shut on any such talk.

"Just to nail that for everyone; there's been a lot of speculation in the media over the last 24 to 48 hours.

"There will be no more changes to the panel in 2017."

The manner in which the message was delivered left those present in no doubt.

In the wake of that clarification, another former Tipp player, James Woodlock, had his say on Newstalk.

"I still think we can do it, but Michael is going to define, I suppose, his managerial career for the last two years on whether this (Barrett) decision is right or wrong, and he's happy enough to stick with it."

The wider point is that Ryan simply wasn't for swaying on this one, not even when a delegation of senior players asked if there was any way back for the exiled corner-back.

There were other representations from individuals close to the Tipp camp but Ryan took no heed.

Letting Barrett go in the first place was a huge call. He'll have been glad he wasn't a social media user at that time, when the news broke at the end of May.

But making hard calls has been a central tenet of Ryan's management.

When Tipp kicked off their 2016 championship campaign, he named four debutants.

And yet, come September, Ryan's starting 15 for the All-Ireland final with Kilkenny featured 14 survivors from the Cork opener, Sean Curran replaced by Patrick 'Bonner' Maher. Mission accomplished.

For the semi-final with Galway, Ryan ignored calls for John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer to start. He'd been sent off against Limerick in the Munster semi-final, and suspended for the final win over Waterford.

Ryan kept him on the leash until the second half, and was rewarded with a match-turning goal against Galway. Mission accomplished - and a clear message that nobody is guaranteed a starting place.

This summer, Ryan performed radical surgery on his defence following the defeat to Cork in Munster, and also changed his goalkeeper.

Up front, Seamus Callanan and Mikey Breen were called ashore early in the second half of Tipp's stuttering qualifier victory over Westmeath and for the Dublin game that followed, Noel McGrath had to be content with a place on the bench.

Callanan was excellent against Dublin, after receiving the proverbial kick in the posterior a week previously, before McGrath delivered a devastating performance against Clare in the All-Ireland quarter-final. Mission accomplished.

Goalkeeper Darren Gleeson, dropped for the Westmeath match, was back in to face Dublin after Daragh Mooney picked up an injury before the game.

Gleeson had been tipped to hold on to his place for the Clare tie but Ryan went with Mooney.

Michael Cahill looked like he'd be sprung to help shore up a porous full-back line at Páirc Uí Chaoimh but Ryan plumped for Sean O'Brien, a championship debutant.

He's a manager who's not afraid to roll the dice and while he turned up sixes throughout the 2016 championship, this year hasn't been without its challenges.

Tipp were motoring fine during the league but ran into a Galway juggernaut in the final - and were spanked by 16 points.

Cork took out Tipp in Munster and Ryan was left with plenty of soul searching to do.

He said: "I did use a term to one of the lads that Apollo has re-entered the earth's atmosphere, we're not floating anymore.

"It was a complete wake-up call, it just shows you if you are off in hurling you'll be chinned, and we were certainly chinned."

Since then, Tipp's curve has been upward, with performances improving incrementally.


Westmeath was poor, Dublin better, and Clare better again. Ryan senses that there's more in his men - and acknowledges that there needs to be.

He said: "I'm looking at these guys and I'm watching their body language and as far as I'm concerned, I'm watching a team that's just growing in confidence.

"We needed to grow in confidence because we are in an All-Ireland semi-final and the standard is going to be higher again.

"I think there's great experience in our squad that just hasn't bubbled up to the right level just yet. We're encouraging that all the time, that these boys will take responsibility and find that little bit of form that's been missing. 

"And it's not much they need to do in my opinion. They just need to fight it out and stick it out. It doesn't need to be pretty, we'll take ugly.

"One of the things you have to figure out quickly is that you can't possibly keep everybody happy, but what you can be is absolutely fair and have the strength to explain your decisions.

"There are calls every week in terms of who makes the 26, the 35, the 15 -who gets on the pitch, who's the cover. 

"But we're very straight with our boys. There's a logic in here somewhere.

"They may not like it but there's a thought process in terms of what we see and value."

Same as it ever was.



Irish Independent

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