An emotional Tipperary hurling manager Eamon O’Shea made a passionate and defiant defence of his “men of honour” after Tipperary were blown out of the All-Ireland in the qualifier stages by a resurgent Kilkenny
Eamon O’Shea who had calmly analysed the incredible contest that had just finished out in the cauldron of Nowlan Park before the assembled media moved into another gear when he believed the commitment and desire and willingness of his players to fight was being questioned.
His players were “men of honour” he insisted and it was his view that any criticism of his players was undeserved.
“Whatever view is out there on Tipperary I would like to challenge it” he said.
“You don’t come down here with the view that Tipperary are not able to put up a fight. I am challenging that view, these boys came here to win a game. I am immensely proud of them, immensely proud of the way they went about their business. They went to fight today and came out the wrong side of the fight. These are men of honour and they will be men of honour in the future,” he insisted.
A devastated Tipp manager said the players had put in “a huge effort for Tipperary - a massive effort for Tipperary”
The manager said they while they had “just lost a game by three points, we did not lose what we have in Tipperary. This team, a lot of them, with the guys coming after them, will be back over the years, of that I am certain,”
Asked if criticism of his players this year had hurt him, the manager told media representatives that he personally was not hurt by criticism.
“Nothing hurts me, I dont get hurt about criticism. I think my players are outstanding. I will defend my players for what they bring in training. These men fight and they fought today. Criticism does not bother me. At the end of my life it does not bother me, it might have done thirty years ago but as you get older these things just does not matter,” he said.
Asked about 2014, he said he had massive belief in Tipperary hurling and massive belief in the players he had. He said he had great belief in all of the players, the players coming near the end of their careers and the contribution they had made and belief in the players that are coming on .
“I don’t see this as other people see it. I see this as a setback. We did not plan to be here. I see it as a setback that we have to pick up the pieces and have to move on and we have the structures in place to do that,” he said.
O’Shea said he was shattered by the result after the work that everybody had put in.
He acknowledged that forwards struggled to win primary possession and that they tried different things which worked for a short time.
“We tried to vary our strategy, very the puck outs in the second half but they are a fantastic team and they got an impetus but we are not far away. I felt there was a possibility at some stages of us winning that game. We did not put away a few chances, that is the nature of sport, at the end of the day it’s the team that takes those chances that go on and win the game,” he said.
Asked about the momentum that Kilkenny built up particularly in the second half when their defenders were winning everything in the air, O’Shea said it was hard for his players to get primary possession.
“They are big men under high balls. Physically the pressure is on when they are not getting good ball. It’s very difficult to get by them physically. They were stronger than us at various stages.
“Small margins were involved. Our team were incredibly determined to play as best they could and I thought they tried incredibly hard to win that game. We missed chances but I don’t want to take away from the victors who scored more than us and that is it,” he said.
O‘Shea, looking to the future, said it was a long term project that involved more than just one season.
“It is an interesting time for Tipperary hurling. We have five or six players, one third of the team, over thirty and we have a number of players yet to come through from various minor teams. There will be a changeover. We are in a bit of a transition. It’s a long term project, we are not going anywhere,” he said.
He said that after a game like the one they had just witnessed it was too early to even contemplate whether some players would make a decision on retiring from the game.
“I don’t know if that will happen. You dont think about things like that when you lose a big game. You just can’t think about it. There is no word on anything like that, things have to settle down a bit,” he said.
He said that Paul Curran was a loss because he was an experienced player but said that he thought the Tipp defence were magnificent.
“We tried everything to win that game.We tried four different strategies.We tried to win that game right to the very end,” said the manager.