All still rosy in Sheedy’s Tipp garden
That Tipperary have only one league win from three outings is not a concern for Liam Sheedy.
His focus is firmly fixed on May 12 and their opening Munster championship game away to Cork.
The disappointment of a league defeat is quickly offset if other tangibles - such as work-rate, fitness, decision-making, a settled team - begin to take shape. In most of those departments, though not all, it has been a case of so far so good.
“If you asked me what’s most pleasing [from our league campaign], it’s the way we are approaching the games and applying ourselves,” said Sheedy. “There’s a real drive in that jersey that I’m really impressed with. We are showing flashes in our play that is very good, but we are still on a steep learning curve and have a bit to go.
“We are far from the finished article. But we are ten or 11 weeks out from where the real fun and games begin.
“In terms of the project and where we are at overall, I am very happy with the effort and energy that they are bringing to the pitch. In terms of the preparation and getting ready for May, I’d be very happy.”
Kids these days not easily pleased
This may not qualify, strictly speaking, as a talking point because it doesn’t relate to what happened on the field of play, or even to what most people saw at the Cork-Clare game.
But the persistent kids who hang around after inter-county games looking for autographs - and other swag - are a pretty widespread phenomenon, so perhaps it’s identifiable enough.
The two teens who were hovering by the Cork dressing room after Saturday night’s win over Clare were working the door hard, asking each player if a) he knew their uncle b) would he sign their jersey c) if there were spare jerseys they could have and d) failing spare jerseys, spare sliotars?
Their persistence alone would get them on staff with any media organisation (“Bill? Bill? Bill? Bill? Bill? Bill? Bill? Do you know our uncle?”) but this was outdone by their neck when they finally got lucky, and a member of the Cork backroom team popped up at the door with three or four sliotars.
“These are worn,” said one of the young lads. “Have you any new ones?”
Galway’s abundance of riches
How strong will Galway be when they have everyone at their disposal? With all of the St Thomas’ players still to come back to the Galway squad, the likes of Jonathan Glynn and Joseph Cooney likely to return in the coming weeks, Galway could have a tough time keeping their full panel happy when the summer comes along.Of the new faces, Kevin Hussey was very impressive at wing-back against Dublin, Sean Loftus was rock solid in midfield, while Sean Bleahene caused huge trouble in the full-forward line as a target man. Tom Monaghan made an impact off the bench and he could be another player to kick on from an injury interrupted 2018.
On the other side of the fence Mattie Kenny will be desperately looking for reinforcements after this performance. He hauled off three of his starting six forwards as well as the injured Cian O’Callaghan, and needs a return from the sickbay before too long.
“Conal Keaney is still a good few weeks away,” said Kenny. “You’ve the likes of Conal, Mark Schutte, Cian Boland, Paul Ryan, Paul Winters, all these guys are coming back into training now. Hopefully, as we go on into March and into April, a lot of these lads will becoming available to us.”
Cody not showing any concern
These are concerning times for Kilkenny supporters after their second loss of the Division 1A campaign.
They lost to Limerick in last year’s championship but before yesterday they’d only suffered one league defeat to the Shannonsiders since Brian Cody took over.
They remain fifth favourites for the All-Ireland, 7/1 long-shots and are considered a team in transition.
Brian Cody took their latest defeat with grace, pointing out that it’s only February. And he has a point because the Cats will look a lot different in May when they have their Ballyhale players back as well as Richie Hogan and Cillian Buckley.
There’s also no relegation threat in Division 1A this year so Kilkenny could suffer two more defeats, to Tipperary next weekend and Wexford in Round 5 and it actually wouldn’t matter a whole pile.
But we doubt Cody is thinking that way having used the league for years to test if rookie and greenhorn was up to it.
Clare must tackle high free count
When I was down on the sideline for RTÉ in Páirc Uí Rinn on Saturday, Diarmuid Ryan was coming on to a ball at one stage in the second half. Ryan went to flick it on but Christopher Joyce almost put his hurley over Ryan’s body, and covered the ball. Diarmuid went flying past as the ball was at Joyce’s feet.
I turned to Ursula Jacob, who was doing the TV analysis with Dónal Óg and I, and said, “The old dog for the hard road.”
Diarmuid is a young player with massive potential but he was just outfoxed by experience and know-how. The easy thing for Joyce to do would have been to over-commit and to risk conceding the free, especially when Ryan was ahead of him. But he didn’t.
That greater discipline in the tackle was in stark contrast to Clare’s sloppiness on Saturday evening. Some of their tackling was back to what Clare were doing in 2015-16. It was chronic. After from being too over the top, Clare are just that little too anxious and tentative in the tackle. I know what that’s like myself when you’re on a good forward. You’ll be more inclined to pull his jersey and give away the free than risk letting him in for a goal. Jack Browne really showed that anxiousness on Horgan on Saturday.
Jack plays on the edge but he is an excellent defender, one who could have got an All-Star last year. He needs to believe in his ability a bit more though. If I was involved with the management, I’d be telling Jack to forget that he had a Clare jersey on his back, and that he was marking elite forwards, and to go out and play like he does for Ballyea. To be like the Bull McCabe and to just go for every ball like you have to win it.
That’s the attitude that Jack – and Clare – need to adopt if they’re to rid themselves of that tackling indiscipline.
Home sweet home
A total of 2,478 fans showed up on a showery Saturday night in Dungarvan; 342 days had passed since Waterford’s hurlers played a league or championship match on home soil.
There are more big games to come as the redevelopment of Walsh Park was approved by An Bord Pleanála last week.
“It’s great that it’s going to happen,” said Paraic Fanning. “It’s going to be exciting times. We see others with their stadiums and we all know that we’ve a bit of work to do on that. I’d encourage everyone to get behind it now. There’s a lot of good things happening in hurling in Waterford. It’s great for the county.”
Before that work starts, Fanning is convinced that Munster championship hurling is on its way back to Waterford this summer.
“I’ll be expecting that they’ll be in Waterford, quietly confident on that. I’ve always said it, we deserve the same chance as everybody else to try and win our championship games.”