Ronan Maher is convinced “the Tipperary way” of playing hurling will serve his team well against Waterford in Saturday’s All-Ireland quarter-final.
Accepting Tipperary’s game-management will have to vastly improve from their Munster final defeat to Limerick and final round Division 1, Group A defeat to this weekend’s opponents, the Thurles Sarsfields man retains faith in the team’s style and structure.
“Game management is obviously going to be a big factor on Saturday. Waterford bring a lot of energy to the pitch. That league game below in Waterford was a high energy game and I think they were probably the better team on the day (the Déise won by five points). They just pushed on and got over us.
“Listen, we’ll be trying to focus on ourselves coming up to Saturday and we’ll be trying to play the Tipperary way more than focusing more on Waterford.
“Liam Cahill’s teams always bring massive energy, massive heart, and fight, so we’ll be looking to match that and even better them on that at the weekend.
“Game management has to be high against these lads because it’s not an ordinary 15-on-15 game, they like to change it up. You have to be able to adapt in the game and take it by the scruff of the neck. We’ll be looking forward to Saturday now and see what they throw at us and we’ll try our best to adapt to that.”
The 25-year-old continued: “We will go into training tonight (Tuesday) and Thursday night and we will try and bring the Tipperary way of hurling. We will see if that gets us over the line at the weekend and we have full confidence that it will.”
Maher fully appreciates Tipperary “didn’t turn up in the second half” against Limerick having been structurally sound in the first half —“Lads knew where they were going around the pitch and they knew where they were supposed to be. Obviously, the power that Limerick brought to that second half was unbelievable and they attacked us from all aspects of the pitch.
“Looking forward, we’re hoping to get another crack at them. But we’re looking forward to Waterford now and focused on performing for 70 plus minutes. We have to.”
Under Sheedy, Tipperary have now lost four times in Munster but on each of the three previous occasions they won the following game, a qualifier against Wexford (2010) and Cork (2020) and the 2019 All-Ireland quarter-final against Laois.
That ability to bounce back does augur well, Maher feels. “There’s a lot of experience, a few lads have been in this situation before and the majority of the panel have come through the backdoor.
“But you have to draw a line in the sand when you’re gone out of Munster and it’s a whole new tournament when we look at it. It’s the really exciting part of the year. It’s down to crunch time and looking at players that we have, it gives us good confidence going forward and we all know our ability as a team and we all know we can drive forward and take these knocks as all good teams do.”
An unbeaten SHC run against Waterford spanning back to the 2008 All-Ireland semi-final, which includes five Munster final victories two of which they won by 21 points, is also a positive, says Maher.
“Obviously, we’ve had massive battles over the years and I suppose it does give you that bit of confidence going forward and belief but this is a whole new Waterford team under Liam Cahill. They bring massive fight and they’re really on top of their game at the moment.”
Experience, he hopes, will count for Tipperary as it did in the All-Ireland semi-final two years ago.
“You see even in 2019, when we pushed on, experience was vital in getting over Wexford. That game was a big boost for us.
“We know that these games are going to be very tight and there’s nothing between the teams at this stage of the tournament.
“We’ll be looking to drive on and it’s always focusing on that 70 minutes and after the Munster final that’s a learning curve for us, just focusing on that 70 minutes and getting a result.”