Self-awareness has never been Tipperary’s strongest suit.
Lar Corbett said as much last week: “There is a lot of hype and sometimes we are probably a little bit too sure of ourselves, of what we are trying to think what is going to happen next.”
It brought to mind a Brendan Cummins’ quote from 2009 we have often returned to: “I’m hoping our cycle is coming around sooner rather than later. Is this the start of a cycle? Not until you win an All-Ireland and put another one with it. Only then can you talk of cycles. In Cork and Kilkenny they win one, January comes and they think, ‘We’re no longer All-Ireland champions’. Not in Tipp. It’s a culture thing.”
Few counties milk an All-Ireland title more than Tipperary and having been bridesmaids to Kilkenny for what must have felt like an eternity they are entitled to toast this achievement, this extraordinary final performance late into the year. But Michael Ryan is such a level-headed manager it would be no surprise if there is a time limit put on the celebrations. Likened to Brian Cody in his pragmatism, it was noticeable just how calm he was in triumph. Here was a man who had felt Kilkenny’s sword on no less than three occasions as a selector. He had reason to jig. Instead, he exhibited vigilance in victory. It wasn’t like Jim Gavin name-checking Carlow and Longford in the immediate wake of Dublin’s 2013 success but there was caution: “I think we might have awoken other giants that may have been sleeping. Every other county is going to take huge encouragement from what we’ve achieved this year.”
Brendan Maher has lost to Kilkenny on five championship occasions but he too was keen not to dwell too much on arresting the slide. “Unfortunately, the 2016 championship is history and that’s the way it is. We have 2017 to look forward to, we’ll enjoy this first but this is a very ambitious group. In 2010, we won and there was a lot expected of us. We didn’t get the success in the following years and we want to change it this time.”
Receiving his RTÉ man-of-the-match award on Sunday night, Seamus Callanan was singing from the same hymn-sheet. “Now it’s time for this group to kick on and hopefully put a few (All-Irelands) together. After 2010, we possibly thought that would happen but didn’t. We have a lot of goals, we’re an ambitious bunch so we’ll enjoy this for a while and we’ll move on again and prepare for more.”
In all of Kilkenny’s celebratory banquets in the CityWest Hotel, such words have never been uttered but Tipperary are different. They have to talk this talk if for nothing more than to set out their stall that from now on things will be different. By next season, it will be 52 years since the county last achieved back-to-back All-Ireland titles. As Cummins admitted, theirs isn’t a culture where the clocks are reset on January 1 but in this group of players and management there is at least the will to change that. And, if they are so striving, there is still enough time for them to be crowned team of the decade.
With the talent emerging, keeping expectations in check will take some doing. It will be two or three years before those from the All-Ireland winning minor team begin to make their mark on the senior stage but in the meantime the likes of Barry Heffernan, Andrew Coffey and Josh Keane, if he can be lured away from the footballers, could be the ones to watch in 2017.
But Ryan is such a steady hand at the tiller. His determination to treat this final like any other game was evident in how he wanted the press event to go. Just one player was made available to speak to the daily newspapers and online outlets until the magnitude of the occasion was pressed upon him and he acquiesced. He’s been around long enough to have seen how hype has eroded Tipperary. Getting ahead of themselves wasn’t going to happen on his watch. His biggest job, though, lies ahead. It’s not as if Kilkenny will lack motivation.
It’s not as if there was triumphalism on Tipperary’s part yesterday. However, as Brendan Maher said on Sunday, “perception is reality”. The sight of Ryan on the big screens smiling and laughing as he realised his team wouldn’t be beaten came just after Richie Hogan had thrown his hurley in vain to stop a wayward TJ Reid pass. John O’Dwyer’s expletive in his post-match interview wouldn’t be the Kilkenny way — and, going by the reaction of old-timers, not the Tipperary way either but O’Dwyer will be forgiven. However, both moments will be salted and stored on Noreside until such time that they provide nourishment in 2017.
Ryan was right to mention the mean pack now in pursuit of Tipperary. Waterford and Galway are in terrific nick and still have plenty of room for improvement. Clare and Limerick will surely be better than they were this season. There will be targets on each Tipperary back but it’s up to themselves just how big they are – bulls-eyes or dartboards. Ryan will be doing everything in his power to ensure it’s the former.
Another argument for the TMO
Who’s to say Tipp’s minors wouldn’t have weathered the storm but they should have been down to 14 for the final 25 minutes or so after Jake Morris lashed out against Limerick’s Josh Adams?
Adams was sledging Morris but it doesn’t excuse Morris. Neither John Keenan or his officials saw the incident. Salt was added to Limerick’s wounds when Morris added a point. He was very influential on the half-forward line, and his absence would surely have been felt.
Without him, Tipp would have been in trouble and it’s not as if Limerick haven’t endured enough injustice when their minors have reached this stage. How can anyone forget how a failure on the part of a HawkEye employee to recalibrate the system from football to hurling settings denied Barry Nash a point in the 2013 game against Galway? Unlike then nobody will be apologising to Limerick but the GAA can do the next best thing and listen to their referees who have backed the introduction of a TV match official. HawkEye was introduced to make the game fairer. With the exception of that Nash judgement, it has succeeded. A TMO, even if it were in the form of the ref being afforded another look or two at an incident, would make games even more just.
Yearning for success is relative
Listening to Brendan Maher’s acceptance speech on Sunday where he mentioned Tipperary’s “six long years” without the Liam MacCarthy Cup, it was difficult not to remember what Jack O’Connor said in a Mayo dressing room in 2006 when he informed them Kerry’s one season with the Sam Maguire Cup was as gaping as their then 55-year famine.
Some may call it arrogance but as those in Kerry and Tipperary might say unless you’re from the counties you won’t begin to understand them. What made these six seasons so long for Tipperary was Kilkenny made them feel like light years.
Apart from last season, since 2010 they were sent packing from the championship on each occasion by their illustrious neighbours so to finally end that streak at the same time claiming the most coveted silverware couldn’t have been sweeter.
If one year felt like a drought in Kerry can you imagine how they’re feeling now when a team Dublin, much like Kilkenny, has made their 2014 success pale into the ether?
Neither Maher or O’Connor were in any way meaning to be insulting. It’s just that yearning is relative. Waterford (57 years), Limerick (43) and Galway (28) hurt more than most; Mayo (65) even more so but the big boys cry too.
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