Thursday 14 December 2017

Poisoned chalice or golden goblet? O'Shea rise to Tipp throne inevitable

Martin Breheny

Martin Breheny

Right man, right time, right call. Once Eamon O'Shea declared himself available, his appointment as Tipperary hurling manager was no more than a formality.

Liam Sheedy and Nicky English, the All-Ireland winning managers in 2001 and 2010 respectively, were the names launched to the top of the early contenders list after Declan Ryan's departure but, since neither was interested in a return, O'Shea was always going to be approached.

As coach under Sheedy, when Tipperary won one All-Ireland and two Munster titles, O'Shea established a reputation as an astute tactician. And, when Tipp wrecked Kilkenny's five-in-a-row ambitions in 2010, the share value of the team management (which also included Michael Ryan as a selector) soared.

With O'Shea available to take the helm, there will be a sense of relief in Tipperary that an appointment has been made quite quickly, allowing the county to begin looking forward -- rather than back in misery at the All-Ireland semi-final defeat.

However, O'Shea knows the Tipperary scene well enough to understand that the honeymoon period will be short. Anything less than the safe delivery of the Liam MacCarthy Cup for a September party will be deemed a let-down.

Declan Ryan led Tipperary to successive Munster titles but was ultimately judged on the failure to retain or regain the All-Ireland crown.

O'Shea will get a little more leeway, certainly in the first season, but if the All-Ireland title hasn't been secured by the end of year two, the in-house critics will begin to circle.

On the plus side, O'Shea has the distinct advantage that he knows the squad extremely well, both as players and as individuals.

He is aware of their capabilities, as exhibited so lavishly in their All-Ireland win two years ago. Equally importantly, he knows their weaknesses, a range of which have manifested themselves since 2010.

Also, the esteem which the Tipperary squad earned two years ago isn't as widespread anymore. That by no means applies to them all, but once there's any erosion of group respect, everybody suffers.

Still, the big picture sees O'Shea taking over one of the most powerful hurling forces in the country.

It's a job which has been something of a poisoned chalice from time to time in the past but on many other occasions it has proven to be a golden goblet. It's O'Shea's task to ensure the latter applies over the next few years.

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