Tuesday 20 March 2018

Ryan targets putting shackles on 'Bonner' influence as Limerick plan for their title defence

Limerick manager TJ Ryan has done his homework and thinks he has found areas where Tipperary can be hurt. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Limerick manager TJ Ryan has done his homework and thinks he has found areas where Tipperary can be hurt. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Donnchadh Boyle

Donnchadh Boyle

It's easier being a player in weeks like these, TJ Ryan reckons.

There is only one head to get right, one thing to worry about. But on the brink of his Limerick managerial debut in the Munster championship, Ryan has had to handle more than the regular rookie boss.

A backlash from the fourth year in a row where Division 1B confounded them ultimately led to the resignation of Ryan's joint-manager Donal O'Grady and left the Garyspillane stalwart rowing the boat on his own just five months into the job.

"I suppose, right now, I'd say playing was an awful lot handier," Ryan smiles. "You'd just have to look after yourself and get yourself right. For me, it's a little bit different. You're trying to get inside the minds of everyone else and try to make sure that everybody else is right.

"It's probably a little bit more pressure alright, but look, it's the job I wanted and it's an honour to have it."

Ryan doesn't hide his confusion at why his side have been so roundly written off as they head to Thurles to take on Tipperary on Sunday.

Limerick haven't won there since 1973, but they are reigning provincial kingpins, something Ryan feels has been quickly forgotten.

"I don't feel they (the players) have anything to prove – they certainly don't have anything to prove to me.

"I think, in recent weeks, the fact that Limerick are Munster champions might have been forgotten alright. In sport there's a perception that defending champions are hard to beat – we'll be trying to ensure that's the case."

There's no doubting Tipp enjoyed the better league. Since squeezing into the quarter-finals, they have gone from strength to strength and might have beaten Kilkenny in the final.

Ryan has his homework done, however, and thinks he has seen areas where Tipp can be hurt. He has noted Brendan Maher's preference for sitting deep and the importance of Patrick 'Bonner' Maher.

"The support play around Bonner seems to be a ploy for this team and it's proved very positive for them," he says. "They have some serious forwards, some good stickmen and they play with a lot of pace. As a team that's something we know they have.

"He's (Bonner) crucial. If you look at the runners coming off his shoulder, that seems to be a factor in the way they play. That's no major secret.

"I think people know he's a crucial player. I think even if you go back to the last time we played Tipp in Thurles, Limerick were in a good position.

"And, in fairness, it was Bonner Maher who made the difference at the finish. Like, he is a factor that we're looking at."

Still, after reaching the last four in 2013, Limerick find themselves in a place where they have more questions than answers heading into championship action. Ryan knows there's only one way to win over the doubters.

"People have short memories. A week is a long time in sport," he says. "Most people would have the league final fresh in their memory because it was a good game, but people have forgotten last year's league final even though that was a cracking game as well.

"That's the way sport is. We're Munster champions as of now and it's up to us to go out and defend that crown."

Irish Independent

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