Tipperary poised to complete third leg of elusive Grand Slam

The Grand Slam of Munster hurling titles has only ever been done once, in 2005 by Cork.

But with the senior-minor double already in the bag, the U21 final in a couple of weeks, Tipperary can complete the third leg in Nenagh this evening.

Additional pressure on manager Mick Ryan and his team then?

“We’re taking no heed of that,” said Mick, “We’re just concentrating on getting over Clare – let others talk about it, we won’t.”

Likewise, says Clare joint manager Gerry O’Connor. “The Grand Slam is something that’s played out in the media but Donal [Moloney, the other joint manager] and myself just approach every game the same and right now our focus is on Nenagh and an intermediate game against Tipperary. We try to get a performance from the lads in every game, that’s all.”

Nevertheless, it is a talking point in hurling circles and with Tipperary also going well in the big-ball game, heady times in the Premier County.

“Unreal, never a year like it,” reckons Mick, himself a former dual player with his club, Fethard, winner of four Tipperary senior football medals to go with three Munster intermediate hurling and two All-Irelands.

“Double Munster minor champions, hurling and football, the senior hurlers winning, the U21s in the Munster final, the senior footballers still going strong. The success seems to be rubbing off on everyone.

“There’s great support from the county board for both hurling and football, at every level, but there’s huge talent in the county too.”

Good times too for Clare hurling however, with the seniors winning promotion to the top division in the league next year, the minors pipped for their third Munster title in a row, the U21s tasked with denying Tipperary in that final on August 8, while the intermediates are the reigning Munster and All-Ireland champions. Gerry and Donal, in fact, are also joint managers of that U21 side. Two jobs for the price of one.

“No, two jobs for the price of none!” Gerry laughs. “We’ve amalgamated our U21 and intermediate duties, drafted in ten or so players for the intermediate to replace the ten guys on the U21 panel who were training with the seniors.

“As reigning champions we had to have an entirely new panel from last year.

“The players eligible were those who hadn’t played senior championship or who hadn’t played with the intermediate team last year, so that cut down our options again. But there’s great talent in Clare at the moment and we’re fierce lucky to be in a position where we’re getting our hands on these players. It’s no great miracle that we’re working.

“There’s a very strong underage structure in place in Clare and we’re benefiting from that. Seán O’Halloran started it all seven or eight years ago, Jamesie O’Connor, Seánie McMahon, Jim McInerney and Brian Quinn have continued it. That’s a huge commitment from former top inter-county players, great use of their experience and it allow us to get our hands on these sort of players.”

Great work paying great dividends in both counties then but Tipperary look to be just that step ahead at the moment.

TIPPERARY: J Logue; G Walsh, K O’Gorman, C Coughlan; J Barry, E Connolly, R Sherlock; M Gleeson, P White; S Carey, J Gallagher, M Heffernan; K Morris, D O’Brien, D Butler.

CLARE: N Woods; P Flanagan, D McInerney, C O’Doherty (c); S O’Halloran, C Duggan, C Chaplin; P Sheehan, J Colleran; P Duggan, C O’Connell, C Malone; F Kennedy, A Lynch, D O’Halloran.

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