“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.”

— Michael Ryan, August 2.

“I’m at the point now where the group will benefit from a new voice and a bit of space.”

Éamonn Fitzmaurice, August 4.

After nine seasons at the coalface of senior inter-county Gaelic games, Michael Ryan and Éamonn Fitzmaurice bid it farewell last week.

Ryan parted having served as a manager for three years and a selector for two three-year bouts under Liam Sheedy and Eamon O’Shea.

The win over Kildare completed six seasons of senior management for Fitzmaurice following three as a selector with Jack O’Connor — 2009, 2010, and 2012. Their All-Ireland records read the same, one title claimed under their own name and another as part of a management team.

As much as Fitzmaurice transitioned transition to claim his one as manager and Ryan struck a marriage of styles in 2016 to help Tipperary become the first team in 21 years to go all the way from the first round of Munster, their loot wasn’t enough by their own standards, never mind those of their own people.

With their decisions, both took their county board executives by surprise having likely been endorsed for another run of it although convincing the clubs of Kerry that Fitzmaurice was the man for 2019 would have taken some doing.

Self-awareness, though, is something each of them possess. They weren’t going to outstay their welcome.

With his above comments to Tipp FM, was Ryan suggesting he had taken soundings from the Tipperary group a la Davy Fitzgerald with Clare in 2016 and the feedback made his mind up for him?

The 2018 captain Pádraic Maher tweeted: “Mick and his management team have done an exceptional amount of work for Tipperary and for us as players. We can’t thank him enough. He has blue and gold running through his vains (sic). We owe alot (sic) to them all. Thanks, lads”.

It was wholly diplomatic but there had been frustration and confusion among the players about the direction, specifically the brand of hurling they were playing, that was being taken this year.

Ryan, like most of us, had budgeted too much for the provincial championships, believing a squad was most important when it was a team he should have first established.

When it was experience that Tipperary had over Limerick, he was on his heels as soon as he fielded a side that were as green as the opposition’s jerseys. The decision then not to speak to the media following the game was another miscalculation.

Michael Ryan on the line during Tipperary’s defeat to Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds this year
Michael Ryan on the line during Tipperary’s defeat to Limerick at the Gaelic Grounds this year

Youth might have been a mitigating factor this year but Fitzmaurice would probably accept it wasn’t enough to explain away what followed the Munster Championship.

After what happened against Mayo last year, all his calls were going to be viewed with more suspicion. That was evident from the trip to Inniskeen in February when shouts were coming down from the stand towards him.

Fitzmaurice admitted on Saturday that he was going to step down as manager at the end of this season regardless of Kerry’s fate.

Chairman Tim Murphy might have appreciated a heads-up on that given the lengths he went to ensuring a new two-year term for Fitzmaurice last October.

But then it might have been the breathing space he felt needed to be afforded this developing bunch of talented players.

Former Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice dejected after Kerry were beaten by Mayo in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final replay
Former Kerry manager Éamonn Fitzmaurice dejected after Kerry were beaten by Mayo in the 2017 All-Ireland semi-final replay

We don’t know the size of the box of anonymous hate letters posted to Fitzmaurice’s home, whether it was a shoe box or something bigger, but it was a box and for a volunteer to be receiving that level of vitriol reflects so poorly on Kerry. At the same time, it is not surprising given the winter of discontent he, his selectors, and players had to endure last season.

On Saturday, Fitzmaurice spoke about more patience being given to Kerry’s greenhorns with a new face at the helm. He wouldn’t be known for wishful thinking but that was a prime example of it especially if Dublin claim a fourth consecutive All-Ireland title on September 2.

Jack O’Connor, incidentally, claimed an All-Ireland senior title in the first year of his two previous spells.

For Tipperary, it’s a different race against time as their glittering class of 2010 comes closer to breaking up, Pádraic Maher, Michael Cahill, James Barry, Brendan Maher and Patrick “Bonner” Maher all turning 30 next year and Seamus Callanan hitting that mark next month.

Their urgency wouldn’t have had to be articulated.

Just as they were major elements of their counties progressing, Ryan and Fitzmaurice were never going to stand in the way of them moving on.

Realising that and taking matters into their own hands said everything about their stature as men of their county and men of honour.

Five-point plan for Super 8

We brought you news last week that the Super 8 is unlikely to do much for football attendances this year and, irrespective of an exciting second weekend, the new phase of the All-Ireland SFC has passed without much fanfare. So what can be done to improve it?

1. Dublin could have played all three games outside Croke Park and won but in the interests of fairness the opening game for them should take place outside GAA HQ. A trip to Tipp to face the Munster champions next year would be special. Croke Park need not hold all of those opening games. Being outside Jones’ Road for all but four matches a season hasn’t done hurling any damage, has it?

Dublin played two of their three Super 8s games at GAA HQ
Dublin played two of their three Super 8s games at GAA HQ

2. Neither Kerry nor Donegal should have had to wait until the final game to play their first home match. If the provinces are to be properly incentivised, they have to be on their own soil earlier.

3. A week between the final Super 8 matches and the All-Ireland semi-finals is too short. Make it a fortnight.

4. There was only one dead rubber this past weekend even though by the end Kerry and Kildare felt like one. A bonus point system may yet have to be introduced to elongate the excitement.

5. The top four in the Super 8 were the top four in Division 1. What are the odds on it being repeated next year? The GAA might soon realise it is time to flip the competitions.

Tribe turn negatives into positive

“We got a lot of stick, especially in Galway, you know? I woke up to a tweet from a Galway man this morning giving me stick about last week’s performance, so there was a lot of motivation there for us from last week ... even in our own county.”

— Joe Canning, July 8.

“We didn’t get a lot of respect over the week from media and such. Our character was questioned, I thought. People were saying we didn’t perform. But only being behind in an All-Ireland semi-final over two games in one instance just shows the character we have. We had a lot of doubters outside our group, even in our home county. It’s just great that we quietened a few today.”

- Joe Canning, August 5.

Joe Canning in action in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final replay win over Clare
Joe Canning in action in Sunday’s All-Ireland semi-final replay win over Clare

If anybody was questioning that Galway were lacking an angle this year, they need only read Joe Canning’s recent comments.

Never mind that the tweet mentioned above had apparently come from a mock account, when the Portumna man is in the mood to take umbrage he is in the mood and that clearly hasn’t relented going by Sunday’s remarks.

Kilkenny’s Paul Murphy spoke before about how “GAA players will look into every corner for motivation” and if Canning’s quotes are anything to go by Galway have been searching high and low. A man usually incredibly generous with his time for supporters, the 2017 hurler of the year was straight into the tunnel at the final whistle. There’s a final to be won and more people, it seems, to be silenced.

- john.fogarty@examiner.ie

 

PaperTalk GAA Podcast: Éamonn Fitzmaurice’s box of letters, Clare’s regret and Galway’s low battery

 

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