Former Tipperary player and ex-Galway manager John McIntyre believes his native county is “in a hole” ahead of Sunday’s pivotal Allianz Hurling League Division 1A clash with Dublin.
Tipperary are reliant on a combination of results to secure a place in the quarter-finals and steer clear of a relegation play-off.
But McIntyre believes Eamon O’Shea’s players are suffering a crisis of confidence and warned that the current rot will be hard to stop.
Tipp have lost three of their four League matches this season and McIntyre has also questioned the make-up of O’Shea’s backroom team.
Speaking to Tipp FM, McIntyre admitted that he was “surprised” when it emerged that ex-Armagh footballer and former Kildare boss Kieran McGeeney would be involved in O’Shea’s set-up.
McIntyre said: “First of all, I was a bit surprised Eamon brought in Kieran McGeeney. I also think there are too many lieutenants around the Tipperary set-up at the moment.
“Eamon has to stand up on his own two feet, for better or worse. I know from my time with Offaly and Galway that the more people you have around in the management set-up, the more time you have to create for their involvement.
“Sometimes your own views can be compromised. Of course, it’s the in-thing at the moment because Clare had a huge backroom team last year, the Dublin footballers the same. But the difficult thing with that is that every team becomes a hostage to having this overgrown and overblown management set-up.”
McIntyre watched Tipp slump to defeat against Galway in Salthill on Sunday and picked up on what he termed a lack of physique, big men and an inability to win possession.
And he warned: “There’s no quick fix to this. Tipperary need the likes of Noel McGrath to rediscover his best form and I’m not sure Brendan Maher at the moment is suited to a midfield role. I always felt he was at his best playing at wing back for Tipp. Conor O’Mahony is underrated at centre back for Tipp for years and players like my own (Lorrha & Dorrha) clubman Patrick Maher are not burning it up like they were two or three years ago.”
A concerned McIntyre added: “The pack has caught up and passed by Tipperary in a big way. Confidence isn’t great in Galway at the moment but they had more verve and vitality about them.
“The one thing that also struck me about Tipperary was their lack of physique, their lack of big men, their inability to win primary possession. They were too easily ‘hooshed’ off the ball and they looked physically light compared to Galway.
“You might say that Clare are a carbon copy of a light team but the one thing that Clare have that Tipperary don’t possess is an incredible pace all over the field. I don’t envy Eamon O’Shea, Michael Ryan and Paudie O’Neill trying to pick up the pieces. There’s a lot of critics on their backs but the management and players are going to have to circle the wagons and adopt a siege mentality over the coming weeks, get the win against Dublin this weekend and build from there.”
While at pains to stress that he did not want to join the “chorus line of critics” currently lining up to take pot-shots at Tipp, McIntyre conceded: “Unfortunately Tipperary are in a hole at the moment. I don’t think it’s going to be easy to come out of it. We would assume they should raise a significant gallop to overcome Dublin in Thurles on Sunday but that’s no longer a formality for Tipperary.
“I agree players are going to have to be put in certain positions and left there. There’s an unsettled outlook to the Tipperary team.”
Describing Tipp as a team “lacking in confidence”, McIntyre suspects a litany of punishing defeats in recent years have contributed to that.
He explained: “This is a squad lacking in confidence and when that malaise sets in, it’s hard to stop the rot. The reality is that Tipp lost their last three big knockout games in the summer of last year — the Kilkenny League final, subsequently surrendering a winning hand in Limerick and then losing that hell-raising (championship) game against Kilkenny.
“Now they’ve come out on the wrong end of the scoreline in three of their last four League matches. Tipperary are lacking that inner belief that you would normally associate with them — it’s the legacy of being beaten so often.
“It’s not going to be easy to pick up the pieces but I don’t think it’s in the county’s best interests for the critics to come out and hammer the management and players. It might be better served if people start rallying behind them and giving them the benefit of the doubt because one win could change their entire season.
“But they are on the back foot at the moment and Eamon is under pressure, to be brutally honest about it.”
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