He may have won All-Ireland medals in three different decades and was a shining light in a golden era for his county. But Tipp hurling manager Declan Ryan believes that the modern game bears little resemblance to that of his own playing days.
As he prepares to take charge of the senior team for the first time in the championship, the Clonoulty man claims that hurling nowadays is at a different level than it was when he played against Cork in the late 80s and early 90s.
“It’s much faster, the skill levels are much better, the players are an awful lot fitter and the ball is travelling further. There’s a lot more heavy tackling. Overall the game now is way ahead of that period”, he says.
The management team, including coach Tommy Dunne and selector Michael Gleeson, was also in charge of the county minors when they won the All-Ireland in 2007, so he has no problem connecting with players in the 19-22 age bracket, who have been dubbed “the facebook generation”.
“We’re very lucky that the guys on the squad are all very grounded and it’s very easy to talk to them. They train very well and the generation gap isn’t an issue because we’re all soldiering together to get the very best out of ourselves as Tipperarymen and as Tipperary hurlers. The bottom line is that we aim to be the best that we can be on the pitch and represent the blue and gold jersey in the proper fashion.
From that point of view we’re all singing from the same hymn sheet”.
Ryan says that he’s enjoying the job, and has been assisted in no small part by his “top class group of players”, some very good advice passed on by his predecessor Liam Sheedy and a strong backroom team.
“The manager’s job is to prepare the team, everything else is outside of that. We’re lucky that we have very good people in the backroom team in Tipp so that responsibility is delegated. From that point of view we try and share those responsibilities”.
He says that his side will be ready for the very physical and strong challenge that he expects the opposition to pose in what should be “a huge battle” on Sunday.
“Cork bring a lot to the game, they bring huge value to the game of hurling. They’re great sportspeople in Cork. As the old cliché says a game against Cork takes on a life of its own, and that’s always been the case, there are never any favourites in a Tipp/Cork game.
We know they’ve been preparing very well, that they’ve gone very well in training and in some recent challenges. It won’t come as any surprise to us that they’ll come out very physical, very strong and very sharp. We expect they’ll be typical Cork.
Cork have traditionally been very strong up to midfield with this current group. And we know they are very physical and strong, they blew Tipp out of the water last year in the physicality stakes and they have plenty of scoring forwards, and they’ll be confident after last year’s performance”.
He said that last year in Pairc Ui Chaoimh the biggest disappointment was the Tipp performance.
For that reason he says that if his team play to the level they’re well capable of then they’ll be in with a good shout on Sunday.