Wednesday 17 January 2018

Tough act to follow

Ryan and Dunne have big boots to fill but history appears to be on their side, writes Colm Keys

Declan Ryan: big shoes to fill
Declan Ryan: big shoes to fill


If the past counts for anything, Tipperary's place at the top of the hurling heap can expect an extension of at least another 12 months.

The last time Liam Sheedy managed a Tipperary team to an All-Ireland title, he didn't wait around to add to it. That was in 2006 when he was in charge of a very progressive minor team.

He was replaced by Declan Ryan and Tommy Dunne, who followed up Sheedy's success with a second straight title with a team containing many of the same protagonists.

Now it's Ryan and Dunne following in the footsteps of Sheedy once more with many of the same players they inherited four years ago.


Their ratification on Tuesday night was a formality. Once Nicky English ruled himself out -- having had approaches about the position within days of Sheedy's departure -- the focus was always likely to turn to the combination of Ryan and Dunne.

Whatever management team was likely to be put in place, Dunne was going to be an integral part of it, it seems.

Tipp covet the manager/coach/ selector model that served them so well under Sheedy (and subsequently Ken Hogan/Dunne with this year's U-21s) who could fall back on the thoughtful practices of O'Shea and the calm, composed presence of Michael Ryan.

It's a good time for any Tipp management to be taking the reins, a bit like moving into a newly-refurbished house that has been completely rewired, replumbed and made over from top to bottom with every mod con available to them.

Significantly, Ryan, Dunne and the third selector, Thurles Sarsfields manager Michael Gleeson -- who was also a selector to the 2007 minors-- walk into that house with almost all of the furniture left in place.

They've a tenancy agreement for just two years, however, one less to what Sheedy and Co signed up to in late 2007.

To facilitate a seamless transition the majority of Sheedy's back-room staff will remain in place, including physical trainer Cian O'Neill. The only doubt surrounds the involvement of team psychologist Caroline Currid, but any departure there has yet to be confirmed.

In the background too will be the county's PRO and highly efficient logistics man and liaison officer during Sheedy's time, Ger Ryan.

It speaks volumes for the network Sheedy put in place that so much of it is to be retained and it would certainly have been an attraction for any manager getting involved. The template has helped Tipperary make up the time on Kilkenny ahead of the schedule they might have mapped out for themselves.

"There's a fantastic group of players there and full credit to Liam, Eamonn and Mick for fostering the goodwill and family spirit that's within the squad there. We would all have liked them to have stayed for another year," said Declan Ryan yesterday.

Once time allowed, what prospective manager wouldn't want to work with players of the calibre of Padraic, Patrick and Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath, Michael Cahill and other potential seniors like Seamus Hennessy, Brian O'Meara, and Michael Heffernan?


As a player, Declan Ryan commanded considerable respect from opponents and colleagues alike.

He won his three All-Ireland medals in three different decades and there's a consensus that his departure after 2001 left a void at centre-forward that Tipperary hadn't really been able to fill until their last two games and McGrath's impact there against Waterford and Kilkenny.

Among the more senior players on the Tipperary squad, Ryan and Dunne will have strong approval too.

Ryan is quiet by nature but reputedly strong-willed and well able to make his point and get it across in a dressing-room context. And when an arm around the shoulder is required, he can deliver that too.

Similarly Dunne has built up a wealth of coaching experience with the Tipperary minors and U-21s and with his own club Toomevara.

His work with the U-21s this season shows that he is well capable of continuing his graduation.

Quite often the challenge to stay at the top can be a lot more taxing than the journey to it.

How hungry for it some of these Tipperary players will be after so much success in the last five years as minors and seniors is something only they can answer in time.

Perhaps there's a clue in the level of disappointment there was among them when Sheedy's team departed. They felt like the ticket to continued success. It's a fair bet that Ryan won't seek to change too much from what they have known.

And they always have the presence of Kilkenny across the border to remind them of the values of not resting on your laurels.

History shows that stepping into the shoes of a recently departed All-Ireland winning manager isn't as difficult as it seems.

Only five GAA managers in more modern times (see panel) have got out at the very top but three of their replacements have been able to follow up with repeat All-Ireland successes.

Only one baton change could be deemed to have been a failure -- Mickey Whelan's two-year term in charge of the Dublin footballers from late 1995 to late '97.

For Declan Ryan and Tommy Dunne those odds don't seem too bad at all.

Irish Independent

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