The success of Clare in winning the 2013 all-Ireland final has opened up the whole debate on the style of hurling, says secretary Tim Floyd.
All-Ireland winners normally dictate what is fashionable, and the Banner boys have raised the bar to a new level of class, pace, athleticism and power, he says. The game of hurling continues to evolve, and the last decade alone has seen at least four different styles used to gain the edge and win the ultimate prize – the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
In 2004, Cork started a revolution with their short passing game which commenced with the goalkeeper pucking the ball out to the corner back, and each player soloing to draw the opposition before passing to a team-mate in the best position to take the score.
Then Kilkenny took over with their branch of hurling, which depended on physicality, aerial power and running on to the breaking ball. They focused on their superior ability to win the 50/50 ball without having to play the possession type game Cork relied upon. Kilkenny dominated for the next four years, winning every All- Ireland and developed an invincibility, under manager Brian Cody, other counties just could not match.
Tipperary came close in 2009 as Liam Sheedy, Eamon O’Shea and Mick Ryan moulded a new Tipp team, many of whom Liam had promoted from his All–Ireland minor winning team of 2006. Their game plan was built on a high degree of skill using short stick passing and pace.
Their use of the open spaces allowed the forwards to express themselves with some dazzling interactive passing and movement. They persisted with this style and added a higher degree of intensity and work rate that ultimately brought them glory and the 2010 All Ireland title.
It seemed like this would continue when Tipperary destroyed Waterford in the 2011 Munster Final under Declan Ryan, Tommy Dunne and Michael (Glossy) Gleeson, scoring seven goals. Unfortunately, we dropped our intensity level and in a below-par performance in the All Ireland Final, we handed Kilkenny an easy title and gave them back the initiative which they held for two more years.
The style of hurling Clare brought to the table in 2013 first became evident in the Waterford Crystal final in Semple Stadium on February 9. That night, they pressed a button after 20 minutes and ran Tipperary off the field with a spectacular display of running and passing to claim the first of their trophies.
So what must Tipperary do to compete with this young “Banner” team, instilled with a new confidence? Tipperary need not look too far to re-discover the flair that made us champions in 2010. Eamonn O’Shea believes in creativity and expression and marrying these elements with massive physicality and work rate is normal to any system. Work rate is as much about turnovers as about scoring.
All teams now have analysts on the line taking notes on hooks, blocks, winning puck-outs but most important on turnovers.
The stats in 2010 will show that Tipperary made 15 turnovers in the final to Kilkenny’s 12. The following year when we lost, Kilkenny made 18 turnovers to our paltry three. Tipperary must develop this intensity and work rate if we are to succeed and it must be consistent in every game. We must only select players who have the discipline, commitment and loyalty to see it through from start to finish. I believe we have the players to fulfill this mission, and I also believe we have the management team in place to lead it.