Tipperary manager Declan Ryan says that his players are now in a much better frame of mind than they were approaching last year’s All-Ireland Final. Acknowledging that his side might have been “blitzed” for the first ten minutes of last year’s final against Kilkenny, he says that the team has improved steadily in every game it has played this year and he’s expecting a further improvement in Sunday’s semi-final.
“The guys have put a massive effort into their physical preparation and mentally we’re in a better place than we were last year. That’s all down to working very hard together, the guys know that they’ve put in a massive effort and any day that you’re not properly tuned in you’re not going to get the results of the hard work you’ve put in. These guys are in a good space at the minute, so it’s going to be a massive battle and if we’re on top of our game then we have a chance”.
The Tipp boss, who as a player encountered Kilkenny just once in his career in the championship (in the 1991 All-Ireland Final that Tipp won), added “there’s a much better atmosphere in the camp, particularly since the Limerick game. The guys have realised that if this Tipp team plays to their potential they can be the best team in the country, simple as that. They’ve all knuckled down and trained very hard and our backroom team has put in a huge effort, and we’ve improved steadily since.
There’s a big performance in them and we’re expecting to see a huge performance from them on Sunday. We’ll be certainly looking to improve on our performance and the guys have trained hard enough and will be extremely hungry going out against Kilkenny”.
Although it was a much overused phrase, he believes it really does come down to how a team performs on the day. “Whatever little edge you can get that could be the vital score and the vital period of dominance that could win you the game and that’s the way it was in last year’s All-Ireland Final”.
He said that Galway played very well when they beat Kilkenny in the Leinster Final, although Kilkenny were missing a couple of their vital players (J.J. Delaney and Mick Fennelly) who would be available for the semi-final. “There are lessons that can be learned from that game but every management team concentrates on their own players and how their own squad is going. In Tipperary all we are concentrating on is our own performance and hoping that we’ll turn up and play as well as we can on the day. We know if we do that we can get through to an All-Ireland Final”.
Ryan agrees that he has a stronger substitutes bench at his disposal this year. “In every game we’ve played so far the bench has made a huge contribution. It’s difficult to tell players that they’re not starting but all these guys have taken it on the chin, they’ve made whatever contribution they’ve been asked to make and that’s fantastic from our point of view.
It’s very nice to be able to look around and have options on the bench, it gives management a huge lift to see guys coming off and wishing the fellow going on the very best of luck. The guys who have come on have all made a huge contribution. We’ve 31 players on our panel, and every one of them is as important as the next, so we’re delighted to have them available”.
One of those players who hasn’t been able to command a regular starting place so far is former captain Eoin Kelly but Declan Ryan has been very impressed by the spirit the Mullinahone players has shown.
“He has shown fantastic leadership and has given management a huge boost. He’s a fantastic guy to have around the place and mas made a huge contribution to the squad. He’s a huge influence on the younger players, always very positive and always willing to give and that has added to the atmosphere and the buzz that’s around the Tipp camp at the minute”.
On the prospect of meeting Kilkenny at this stage of the championship he says “to win the All-Ireland championship you have to beat all the best teams, no matter where you meet them along the way. Playing Kilkenny in the semi-final means we’ll have to be at our very best to win, and the best team generally wins the All-Ireland Final and I’m sure it’ll be no different this year”.