The confidence of the Tipperary players had taken “a bruising” after last year’s heavy defeat by Kilkenny in the All-Ireland semi-final but “no serious amount of rehabilitation” was needed, according to assistant manager Michael Ryan.
“It was accepted that these guys didn’t get it right in 2012. They just came to us with a blank canvas and our task has been to make space and give these guys a platform to play, to provide the support mechanisms behind them and guide them”, he says.
“Inevitably a lot of conversations are drawn back to 2012, but we just try and re-assure the guys. That was last year and it doesn’t count this year. That title is won, it’s sitting down in Kilkenny, let’s move on. None of us can live in the past, why would you. We live for today. We emphasise that all the time in terms of the decisions you make. What you do with your life only counts from now on. That’s coming from the management team and the players have bought into that 100%.
As he previewed Sunday’s League Final in Nowlan Park, the Upperchurch man said you were tested in every facet of the game when you played Kilkenny.
“They’ll give you nothing on any level. We pretty much know what they can do physically.The mental test is the real challenge. We’re building, we’re on a trajectory. This isn’t September, it’s the league final in April.Guys won’t be ruled out if they’re slightly sub-standard on Sunday, particularly the younger guys because they’re developing. We’re just trying to find a balance.
There’s a big challenge in selecting a panel, these guys are showing the right characteristics, that the desire is there. They’re making the sacrifices, which are huge, and they literally put their lives on hold. Their effort is phenomenal. For some the tragedy is that they won’t get the jersey. We can only use 20 guys on any day. Thankfully this league has served us in that we can rotate that pretty much. But there’s a limit to what we can do because we don’t want to interfere with the balance or structure of the team.
If we did that in Division 1A you’d be dumped, it was that finely poised.
Sunday will be a step in our progression. You can’t play the best teams often enough.Two of the finest soccer teams in Europe (Barcelona and Real Madrid) are now 4-1 and 4-0 down after the first legs of the Champions League semi-finals, that just shows you can take nothing for granted. You’re as good as your very last performance.
In terms of us going down to play Kilkenny it’s the best game we could possibly get at this time. It will give us a great sense of how far the boys have come and how they’ll react to the challenge on several levels, how they play and how they handle the tension of taking on Kilkenny. We’ll see if it sits easily with them and if they’re enjoying this. Ultimately that will inform us whether we can ask them harder quesations and if they’ll be able to stick the heat later on”.
Ryan is hoping that Eoin Kelly and John O’Dwyer, who missed the semi-final against Dublin through injury, will be available for selection, reporting that they’ve since made good progress.
“Buggy O’Meara may or may not be available. John Maher probably won’t be ready. John O’Brien’s recovery is a little bit slower too. It’s an anxious time for the guys with injuries”.
Since Michael Ryan filed that injury update Padraic Maher injured his arm while playing for Thurles Sarsfields against JK Brackens in the Mid Tipperary Senior Championship last Saturday, and earlier this week was rated a doubt for the final.
“We’re very happy that some of the players who have joined the panel have made really good progress.In 2010 we had 8 U-21s on the panel but some of those guys haven’t progressed. Seamus Hennessy’s knee hasn’t held up and that’s disappointing for him and for all of us because we haven’t got to see him since 2010.
Jason Forde is doing very well but now we only have 3 U-21s and you would expect that on any senior squad. We need to get more out of the younger population. Jason and Bubbles (John O’Dwyer) came to us as very well developed hurlers. They slot in very quickly. The stuff that you can’t coach or teach is desire, and that’s what differentiates them.
It’s the best available game at this point and it’s great to play Kilkenny. It’s exactly who you’d want to play, and in Kilkenny they’d probably give you the same answer. With the greatest of respect to some of the other teams we’re the chasing pack. Kilkenny are in everyone’s line of sight and it would make it slightly better if we could get in and take the cup out of their backyard.
It would give us bragging rights for a few weeks. I work down there and I need bragging rights!” he says.