Michael Ryan admits he is a little scared of life after inter-county management, but insists he wasn’t stung by criticism that comes with operating in the “Tipperary goldfish bowl”.
Also, the outgoing Premier boss defended Tipperary’s hurlers against accusations from former manager Michael ‘Babs’ Keating that some squad members let Ryan down through drinking and indiscipline.
“It’s a little scary on a personal level,” Ryan told Tipp FM yesterday, discussing his decision to step away from the county setup after 10 years involved, including three as manager.
“It’s been such an important part of my life. I’ve been so privileged. I’ve enjoyed every single minute of it. I would have nothing but good memories from it.”
Ryan came in for strong criticism within the county after Tipp’s exit from the Munster Championship this year, with West Tipperary chairman John O’Shea suggesting the management team was “past their sell-by date”.
“Everyone’s got an opinion on it. You do live in this goldfish bowl in Tipperary,” Ryan said yesterday.
“We’re such hurling fanatics. We get that support, but with that you’ve got to be able to accept criticism. Some of it may be over the top, or on the spur of the moment after a defeat, but we all have opinions about hurling.
“In Tipp, once you understand the rules of engagement, it’s fine. I never take it personally.
"I will be back in the stands, I’m already back in the stands watching the championship. We’ll all be back screaming our heads off for Tipp next year.”
In his column in The Sun yesterday, Keating wrote: “He was let down by some members of the squad when it came to drinking and indiscipline.
However, Ryan insisted that wasn’t a factor.
“I wouldn’t subscribe to that. We had a very dynamic group of people. Within any group, you’re going to get diverse people, different mindsets, different ages. It’s a great mix of people.
“It’s a very structured environment, where huge demands are placed on the players. I really don’t believe we understand, unless you’ve been up close and personal with them, just the level expected from these guys.
“We never had a culture... we never imposed very strict guidelines on lads. We fully understood they had to have some kind of a social life and they were very restrained in that.
"They’ve got to have relationships. We tried to give them the autonomy to make choices. That’s a very healthy environment.
“When fellas get out, any kind of excesses get reported, particularly in Tipperary, because it’s such a goldfish bowl, but our fellas are as normal as any other bunch.
"I really would take my hat off to our players down through the years.”
Ryan had been backed to stay on in the job by the Tipperary County Board, and had considered returning for another shot at reclaiming the All-Ireland title won in his first year in charge in 2016.
“We looked at all the possible scenarios; stay, go, rebuild. This is something we care deeply about. We are committed Tipp men. Equally committed as the players and the county board, as the backroom.
“You’ve got to be realistic about that. With that comes responsibilities. It didn’t work out. We didn’t have the results we needed.
"Yes, we could have stayed and had a go at it all again, but the questions are: Is that the right thing for Tipp, was it the right thing to do.
“By the standards we had set for ourselves, and broadly had achieved quite well, this was a disappointing year for us. You never want to go out on a disappointing result, but that’s life and that’s sport. It’s time for something new in Tipp.
“It’s time for something new in Tipp. The group of players, we want to give them the best chance going forward. They just want to hear something new.
"I’ve been there a very long time and I’m certain sure those guys needed a break from me.
“The excitement that will build with a new backroom, that it will inevitably bring on top of the existing group of players, plus any additional players, will give Tipp a huge lift for 2019.
Ryan recalled fondly the 2016 final performance, which Keating yesterday described “as one of the finest by any team to grace the biggest day of the hurling calendar”.
“It was very special for us all in Tipp. To have a successful minor team, to have a successful senior team, and not forgetting our senior footballers, who were in an All-Ireland semi-final as well.
“Sport was really on fire in Tipp in 2016. The effort has not changed. That is just sport. We have tried as hard as we possibly could.
"That is the beauty of sport. Our love affair with hurling is absolutely intact. That will endure regardless.
"I think the future is very bright.”