Tipp manager Eamon O’Shea admitted that the better team won Sunday’s National Hurling League Final but said he was proud of his side and the way they battled.
“We were competitive right to the end today. I think the better team won, certainly. But from our point of view I was really happy with their attitude.
I wouldn’t be happy with the performance. I don’t think we played that well, particularly in the first half. The team really battled hard and that’s a really good sign of a team. We’re not at a level where we want to be and people were probably over-egging us a bit after the semi-final (against Dublin) and the last game in the league (against Galway).
However I’m happy with the competitiveness of the players out there, they gave absolutely everything, even when they were under the cosh, conceding two goals in the first half. I’m really proud of them”.
He thought that the most important aspect of a slow start (Tipp were 5 points behind after 3 minutes) “is that you recover and you don’t allow the game to go away from you. I think that’s the really pleasing aspect of the team and the development of the team. We’re not at the level where we want to be in terms of fitness or ball work. The last couple of weeks we’ve had club games every Sunday, that sometimes take the edge off.
Today gives me real hope. The team that beats us this year will have to work really hard to beat us and that’s the most pleasing aspect of today. If anyone beats us this year they’re really going to have to earn it. Where we are in the development of the team, that’s good enough for me.
We only had one goal chance, but some of the goals we got during the league were from accidents, to be honest. The goals we scored (during the league) were exaggerated in terms of where the team were at. There’s a lot of work to be done yet”.
He said that goals came from the movement of the ball and the movement of the players, and his side wasn’t at the level yet where the movement of either was as quick as they wanted it.
“We didn’t go into the game today thinking we were going to score a lot of goals against opposition like that, to be honest. There’s no easy way to score goals, you have to earn them.
For some reason today in the first half we were a little slow out of the blocks. We were clawing back all the time but I was exceptionally proud of the way they stuck in the game. We could have sneaked it in the end but Kilkenny were better than us today, no doubt about it.
It’s quite difficult to play the measured game that you want, with the pressure you’re under. We tried to play a little more controlled ball at some stage in the second half, we got back to the way we want to play.
You have to be careful talking about game plans in hurling because the opposition is so strong and competitive and the play moves so fast that you have to play it as you see it”.
O’Shea said he hadn’t seen the incident that led to Lar Corbett and JJ Delaney being sent off, but added he had “absolutely no problem with the referee, he had a fine game. Kieran Bergin was very good, for the first 5 or 10 minutes he was under severe pressure but then he settled down and got into the game. Although a number of our players weren’t playing well they stayed wanting to win the game and that was a great sign of a team.
We’ve a lot of ball work and speed work to do. It looked like a high-grade game, one team playing slightly better and the other trying to stay in the game, and that was us. It was a very good battle, it reminded me of some of the rugby games between two good teams. Our guys did fantastic to stay in that game.
I was happy with the league as a whole, obviously in terms of the way we began it (with a heavy defeat by Cork). Today was a big learning curve for us,that sort of competitive game so early in the season”.