Tipp prove young at heart

THERE’S a familiar ring to Tipperary boss Liam Sheedy’s youth policy for tomorrow’s Munster SHC clash with Cork.

Sheedy starts several recent graduates from the minor ranks: Padraic Maher, senior debutant Michael Cahill and Brendan Maher won All-Ireland minor medals in 2006 when fellow seniors Seamus Callanan and Noel McGrath were substitutes. Gearoid Ryan and Seamus Hennessy are senior subs tomorrow, but they lined out for the minors that day. Two years ago McGrath and Brian O’Meara, another debutant tomorrow, won All-Ireland minor medals. That means a harvest of five senior starters from a minor All-Ireland-winning side four years ago.

The reason we say there’s a familiar ring to that is another county tried something similar a few years ago, promoting several youngsters in a bid to make the senior breakthrough.

In 1999 Cork boss Jimmy Barry-Murphy gave championship debuts to Donal Óg Cusack, Wayne Sherlock, Timmy McCarthy, Mickey O’Connell, Neil Ronan and Ben O’Connor.

Cusack, Sherlock, McCarthy and O’Connell had played on Cork’s 1995 All-Ireland minor-winning side, and, as in the case of Noel McGrath and Padraic Maher, two players from that side beat their teammates to the big show: Joe Deane played the McGrath role in 1996, progressing straight to the senior side at 19 to face Limerick. Sean Óg Ó hAilpín saw action as a substitute that day.

That Cork minor side is regarded as the bedrock of Leeside success in the past decade, even if only two of them remain on the senior selection now, and they provided the framework of Cork’s All-Ireland victory of 1999.

But that win came more or less out of the blue.

Tipperary’s current senior team are further along in their development, having won last year’s Munster championship and run Kilkenny close in the All-Ireland decider. Noel McGrath, Seamus Callanan and Brendan and Padraic Maher face this year with the experience of a long top-flight campaign to draw on.

The flip side of that advantage is a double challenge. There’s familiarity: Cork’s side of ‘99 were an unknown quantity. McGrath and Callanan, in particular, may find the opposition has specific plans for them.

And there’s pressure. Eleven years ago Cork were underdogs in every game; Tipperary begin tomorrow as favourites based on last year.

There are other ways to success — Waterford didn’t draw on outstanding underage teams to build their dynasty (pedants could point to fine minor teams with the likes of Dan Shanahan and Dave Bennett in the mid-90s).

A strong youth policy is no guarantee of success either, as Limerick’s experience following three U21 titles shows.

But it certainly helps.

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