How Croker rejection drew Sheedy back to Tipperary

How Croker rejection drew Sheedy back to Tipperary
Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy: ‘The journey I have had over the last seven months has been hugely uplifting.’ Picture: Seb Daly

It came mighty close to working out another way. We’re not talking last month and the first-half chances Wexford gave up but an event that occurred 14 months earlier: “The GAA is pleased to confirm that Central Council has today approved the appointment of Tom Ryan as its new Director General.”

Liam Sheedy had made no secret of his wish to succeed Páraic Duffy. A member of the outgoing management committee and chairman of the Hurling 2020 group, he had put his hat in the ring and was shortlisted for the position only for then GAA finance director to be given the nod.

Had he been successful, the Portroe man’s position on the Hogan Stand rostrum would have been guaranteed alongside GAA president John Horan this Sunday but then Tipperary may very well not have the opportunity to climb the steps.

Sheedy has spoken openly about missing out on the organisation’s big job but it’s on weeks like these that Tipperary would believe the GAA’s loss has been their gain. “To be honest, I don’t look back on life,” he says. “I spend my life looking out through the front window of the car most of the time. There is a path laid out for us all. That path wasn’t for me. I certainly gave it everything but my outlook on life all the time is ‘what is for you, won’t pass you by’.

“Clearly that particular number wasn’t for me and this number was for me so whatever number I find myself in, whether it be in work or in sport, I’ll give it 100% and I have given this job 100%.

I don’t let stuff linger like that. I just have a belief in myself and what I can do and working with top-class teams is where I find myself and I am loving it.

His late mother Bid was very much a believer in que sera, sera.

Speaking as a player in a magazine piece 22 years ago, he listed her as a key figure in his life and echoes that as he contemplates how fate led him back to the Tipperary role.

“My mother was a huge influence on me over her lifetime and thankfully she was around for 90 years. That was her statement, ‘what is for you, won’t pass you by’. It’s something that has stuck with me so if it passes by me it wasn’t meant for me and you move on and I move on quickly. Look at where I find myself now and I am really enjoying where I am.”

March 24 was the date Ryan was announced as Ard Stiúrthóir. September 24 was the date the return of Sheedy was declared as bainisteoir. He felt he owed something to the older contingent but he didn’t come back to rescue a team in distress after the county’s early Championship exit since 1999.

“There is no point in getting involved with a team unless you believe you can do something. I wouldn’t have stepped back into this arena unless I had the energy for it, unless I had the support of Bank of Ireland (where he is provincial director for Munster) and the support of my own family.

I had all those boxes ticked and that allowed me to go and give it my full commitment.

“It does take up a lot of time but to be honest I haven’t felt as good in terms of life. There is nothing as refreshing as being out on a field on a Tuesday, Friday and over the weekend with a group of players who just drive at it 100 miles an hour, as best they can. It’s hugely enjoyable. We will all be measured at the end of the day on results but for me, it is much more than results. The journey I have had over the last seven months has been hugely uplifting.”

After that Munster final trouncing to Limerick, Sheedy espoused positivity as he had done after every league game, as mediocre as that campaign truly was. “The matches come thick and fast in the league. We lost a lot of matches by a point, which showed we were right there. Lost to Wexford by a point; Kilkenny by a point; Dublin by a point. It wasn’t as if we were getting significantly opened up or getting significant beatings.

We were very conscious of the work we needed to do for later in the Championship. Throughout the league our full focus was on May 12 (v Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh). We saw that as a massive day where we were going to play a team that was back-to-back Munster championships in their own backyard.

“We felt we had to be really, really ready for that. A lot of our work and preparation was geared towards that. Thankfully, that went well. Overall the Munster campaign; we had 300 very good minutes in the round robin series. Obviously, we fell flat in the Munster final and were probably written off in some quarters on the back of that lacklustre performance.

“That thinking didn’t seep into the group. It didn’t seep into me. We retained a massive belief in what we could do. We went about our business again. We got a chance to regroup. We got a match in Croke Park and got through it. We got another game.”

Sheedy accepts the first-half display against Wexford can’t be repeated this Sunday against a Kilkenny team and manager for whom he has nothing but admiration. “Obviously for Kilkenny toppling the All-Ireland, league and Munster champions was a phenomenal performance. I have huge admiration for their spirit, their style of play. They got off to a great start and never wilted. They deserve great credit for that.”

He continues: “Kilkenny are the most workmanlike team out there. The way they go about their business and chase down ball is a credit to them and their manager. That is something we are really, really aware of.”

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