So who’s the new man in the hotseat?
Eamon O’Shea, the head of Economics in NUI Galway, who was a former Tipperary senior hurler between 1979 and 1986, and also lined out for Dublin at senior level. His list of playing inter-county honours included an All-Ireland minor title in 1976, an All-Ireland U21 title in 1978 and a NHL title in 1979.
At club level he played for Kilruane McDonagh’s, winning Tipperary SHC medals in 1977, 1978, 1979 and 1985, along with an All-Ireland club medal in 1986.
Hasn’t he been involved with this Tipperary squad before?
He certainly has and with a fair degree of success as well. When Liam Sheedy swept in to the Tipperary senior manager position in 2008, he installed O’Shea as his coach. Tipperary thrived as they won Munster titles in 2008 and 2009, came desperately close to an All-Ireland in 2009 before making amends a year later in the 2010 decider.
O’Shea played a critical role in devising a gameplan to unseat Kilkenny in that match. Tipperary clocked up 4-17 with Lar Corbett smashing home three goals in their eight-point victory as their constant rotation of forwards and whirlwind movement helping prise Kilkenny apart. O’Shea’s closing words reputedly in the pre-match huddle to the players were ‘attack, attack, attack’. They delivered in style.
But didn’t Tipperary lose to Kilkenny by 18 points last month which creates quite a gap to bridge?
That’s true. Tipperary have regressed since their 2010 glory and clearly their second-half collapse in the recent All-Ireland semi-final was disastrous. Former manager Declan Ryan candidly admitted that mistakes were made and Tipperary’s tactical approach for that game has come in for scathing criticism from supporters.
Kilkenny have bounced back from that final loss to two years while this season Galway have emerged as a major force. There is signs of youthful improvement elsewhere in Munster in Cork, Clare, Limerick and Waterford while Dublin are also seeking to recapture form in 2013. O’Shea inherits a squad of undoubted talent but improving morale and scaling old heights are key aims he must realise.
What type of hurling philosophy does the new man possess?
In his interview this morning on Tipp FM, O’Shea spoke of making work rate the cornerstone of his team along with marrying Tipperary’s traditional grit with a modern approach to hurling. That hints at producing the manic intensity and graft that is now a pre-requisite of the game but also at the innovation and intelligence that O’Shea has become renowned for.
He has highlighted in the past his admiration for the philosophies of Dutch football, where flexibility of positions stood out for him, and New Zealand rugby, where he was impressed that they sought to constantly keep the ball alive. That demonstrates how O’Shea is a deep thinker of the game and the potential devising of enlightened strategies next season will be fascinating.
And who are the figures that will be helping him from the sideline?
That particular team has yet to be revealed. Given that the loose ends were only tied up at the weekend which paved the way for O’Shea’s appointment, he will take his time now and not rush in to naming those who will work alongside him. O’Shea has said he will finalise his backroom over the next month.
Michael Ryan of Upperchurch-Drombane – who was a senior selector from 2008 to 2010, Mick Ryan of Fethard – who trained the Tipperary intermediates to this year’s All-Ireland and Eamonn Corcoran of JK Brackens, are amongst those who have been linked as candidates.
Eamon O’Shea with Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins. Pic: INPHO/James Crombie
What of the Tipperary panel, can we expect a shake up there?
Long-serving stalwarts like Brendan Cummins and Eoin Kelly have spoken glowingly of O’Shea’s attributes in the past and his presence may tempt them to commit to the cause once more. The core of the team will remain intact but rediscovering the form of old is a necessity for some.
Tipperary will hope that Shane Bourke and Seamus Callanan from their attacking substitutes can challenge strongly for starting berths while from this year’s U21 team John O’Dwyer, Brian Stapleton and Sean Curran emerged as fine prospects. Defensively Tipperary could do with greater depth with the restoration to full fitness of Paddy Stapleton a potential asset.
So all in the Premier county will be acclaiming the return of O’Shea?
Certainly there will be a feel-good factor today given the regard in which O’Shea was held in by players and supporters alike. The players in particular should be energised after recent difficulties by the installation of O’Shea.
Clearly there is the nucleus of a talented side there, one which is capable of ensuring that Tipperary’s total of four All-Ireland senior crowns since 1965 can be increased. Yet expectations must be measured and O’Shea’s appointment cannot be viewed as a guarantee of future successes.