Sport GAA

Wednesday 12 December 2018

People calling for the head of Michael Ryan is just attention-seeking nonsense

Despite his deep disappointment Tipperary boss Michael Ryan found no fault with anybody, unlike Andy McEntee after Meath’s defeat to Tyrone. Photo: Sportsfile
Despite his deep disappointment Tipperary boss Michael Ryan found no fault with anybody, unlike Andy McEntee after Meath’s defeat to Tyrone. Photo: Sportsfile
Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Offaly removed Stephen Wallace and relaunched under Paul Rouse; Colin Kelly has departed Westmeath after one season, advising them to shop local for his replacement and Andy McEntee conveniently dumped the blame for Meath's defeat by Tyrone at the referee's door.

In hurling, Tipperary hurling is in shock after the earliest championship exit for 20 years; Offaly's hurlers won't be seen in the Leinster Championship again until 2020 at the earliest and Laois are looking for a new manager.

The culls, the criticisms and the cant are in full flood as the reality of the championship sinks in. As usual, it's being ignored in favour of a search for scapegoats and easy answers.

But when all the froth is blown away, it comes down to this: irrespective of what formats or systems apply, who is in charge of teams and what players or tactics are deployed, elimination time has arrived and will continue for all except two counties.

And when it happens to your county, there won't necessarily be someone or something to blame. It won't seem like that, of course, and it definitely won't be portrayed as such.


Except in very obvious cases, the most logical explanation that a team were beaten by better opposition comes so far down the list as to barely register. No, it has to be down to the manager, the squad's attitude, the county board or the structure.

The latter is prevalent in hurling this year, with claims that the condensed provincial programmes, which forced Tipperary, Waterford, Offaly and Wexford to play four games over four successive weekends, is unfair.

It's certainly unfortunate and should be reviewed at the end of the season but where's the solid evidence that it made any material difference?

Offaly were always likely to lose all four Leinster games and it's doubtful that a break would have changed that.

Galway, Kilkenny, Wexford, Dublin and Offaly was the predicted order in the Leinster round robin, which is exactly how it finished. Davy Fitzgerald said after last Saturday's defeat by Kilkenny that they would have had a stronger finish if it hadn't been their fourth in four weekends.

We'll never know if that's the case, but surely a nine-point lead early in the second half should have provided a real energy boost against opposition that had been well-beaten by Galway in their previous game. Interestingly though, Kilkenny outscored Galway by 1-7 to 0-5 in the middle third, underlying how efficient they can be when they get their game going.

Wexford had recent memories of it too. After leading Kilkenny by four points early in the Allianz League semi-final at home in April, they were out-scored 1-11 to 0-0 over the next half-hour. That was hardly a fatigue issue for Wexford.

Where was the evidence of tiredness in Tipperary last Sunday when they came so close to going seven points ahead against Clare after 65 minutes? Instead, a shot by Jake Morris hit the upright, Clare counter-attacked quickly, setting up Ian Galvin for a goal. In the space of 25 seconds, what looked certain to be a seven-point lead for Tipp was down to one. Even then, they led by a point deep in stoppage time before conceding three in a rapid-fire sequence.

Tipperary supporters are still bewildered after watching their team fail to win any of four Munster games, a sequence that nobody would have foreseen.

It was certainly unexpected, but when analysed in a calm, reasoned manner, it can hardly be classified as a seismic shock, any more than it's an indictment of management.

Clare beat Tipp in this year's league, having run them to three points in last year's All-Ireland quarter-final. Cork, who drew with Tipp last month, beat them in last year's Munster quarter-final.

Limerick, first round winners over Tipperary last month, drew with them in this year's league semi-final and had also won two of the previous four Munster clashes between the counties.

Waterford have had a difficult season, but they were All-Ireland finalists last year so drawing with them in such an extraordinary game was scarcely a disaster for Tipperary.

The truth is that the five counties in the Munster round robin were - and still are - quite close. Whatever way results went, two very good teams were going to be eliminated.

It would have taken an extraordinary level of arrogance among Tipperary supporters to assume that a top-three finish was a certainty when previous results against their four Munster rivals suggested otherwise.

Presumably, those cold, hard facts, rather than misguided assumptions, will dictate where Tipperary should go from here. Calls for Michael Ryan's head should be seen for what they are - attention-seeking nonsense, best ignored. Despite his deep disappointment, Ryan found no fault with anybody, unlike Andy McEntee after Meath's extra-time defeat by Tyrone.

He raged against referee Paddy Neilan with the sight of his players restraining him not doing much for him image as Meath boss.

"It's one of the reasons why fellas go off to America. It's one of the reasons why fellas don't declare for inter-county football. You've got to get the basics right. Refereeing is a fairly basic requirement," fumed McEntee.

It's also a very tough job, especially if managers feel entitled to confront them after games.

Just for the record, Meath won only three of nine league and championship games this year, the victories coming in Division 2 against Louth, Clare and Down, a trio who were eliminated from their provincial championships by a total of 46 points.

Referees can hardly be blamed for all of the Royals' annus horribilis.

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