You wouldn’t normally associate Clare’s Cratloe Woods with the sun-soaked Costa del Sol but as David Moriarty watched the Tipperary footballers go through their paces, he was filled with a renewed sense of hope.
Because there were dark days along the way, Moriarty admits, particularly when young stars Liam Casey, Jason Lonergan and Kevin Fahey announced they were heading to the United States following the conclusion of the Allianz Football League.
Moriarty, the team’s strength and conditioning coach, remembers nights driving home and wondering what on earth he was doing.
But that all changed when Tipp manager Liam Kearns whisked his players and backroom staff off on a training weekend which just so happened to coincide with a glorious period of weather in early May.
They stayed at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Limerick and used Cratloe GAA’s facilities as a training base.
That’s where the fog began to clear and just a few weeks out from Tipp’s championship opener against Waterford, Moriarty could see some light at the end of the tunnel.
They arrived at 10am on the Saturday morning and left for home shortly after lunchtime on Sunday. The hours in between were filled with sweat, video analysis, sleep and lots of laughter. It was the tonic required.
Tipp beat Waterford and, famously, Cork to reach a Munster final. Kerry were too good in Killarney but victories over Derry and Galway have brought the Premier County to a first All-Ireland SFC semi-final in 81 years.
But Moriarty recalls: “Don’t get me wrong, there have been dark days this season.
“After every training session, driving home on my own, I critique the session, asking myself ‘how did that go,’ ‘what can I improve and do better?’ But there were times when I wondered what I let myself in for. The couple of weeks after the League, when the lads decided to go to America, I was looking around and seeing a panel depleted from 34 to under 30.
“We went on a training camp and used Cratloe GAA pitch as a base in early May. The weather was phenomenal – one of the best weekends we had in early summer.
“That was the turning of the tide. The lads realised there was no point in looking around and wondering if hurlers were coming back or about the lads going to America. We were a few weeks away from the Waterford match but it was like switching on a light. The whole thing changed after that.
“We met early for a conditioning session and a football session. In the afternoon, we went to Cratloe Woods, which the Clare hurlers and some Limerick rugby teams use for training.
“We had bonding games, fun and craic for maybe an hour and a half. The lads enjoyed it and then it was back to the hotel for video analysis and a swim.”
The next morning, Tipp beat Clare in a challenge match and played well, very well in fact. After that it snowballed and things dramatically improved but we mightn’t be talking if things went wrong against Cork,” Moriarty adds.
“You hear of teams going to Portugal and Spain and while you don’t necessarily have to do that, what made it was the weather. If we went down to Cratloe and it was miserable and pissing rain, it might have given us a different result but it was like being in the Costa del Sol.”
When Kearns announces his team for Sunday’s game against Mayo, it’s expected to be the same starting 15 for a fifth successive match.
That’s testament to Moriarty’s work but he rightly references the input of physio Ian Dowling, the former Munster rugby player, and Paul McMahon, who specialises in soft tissue therapy and sports injuries.
Moriarty, however, is a vital cog in the Tipperary wheel that rolled into Croke Park for a quarter-final against Galway and took the place by storm.
His relationship with Kearns goes back to 2001, when he stepped in to oversee Limerick football training when the manager went for a hip replacement.
Kearns was a sergeant in Templemore’s Garda training college, where Moriarty was a PE teacher. Kearns was suit ably impressed by Moriarty’s work with the Limerick players over the winter months and he kept him on.
Limerick emerged as a serious force, contesting Munster finals against Kerry in 2003 and 2004. But when the team regressed in 2005, Kearns and Moriarty stepped away. They remained in touch, however, meeting socially a couple of times a year for a drink with their mutual friend, the former Limerick hurler Ollie Moran.
Moriarty is also a lecturer with Setanta College, on the renowned online strength and conditioning course that also oversees on-site workshops, and Kearns studied there too.
Before linking up again in a team environment, Moriarty spent a couple of years with the Limerick senior hurlers (they contested an All-Ireland final in 2007) and Kearns had a stint in charge of the Laois footballers before linking up with John Evans as Roscommon forwards coach last year.
Moriarty (45), trained the Adare teams that won Limerick SHC finals in 2001 and 2002, and was a rugby player who retired early due to injury in his late 20s.
When he was working in Dublin as a Garda, he played with Terenure but during his time at the Templemore training college, he was living in Limerick and playing with Young Munster, before a serious neck injury ended his career.
Since January 2014, Moriarty has also been involved with current Cork SH champions Glen Rovers. This summer, he’s not seeing as much of them as he’d like but the door is open whenever Tipp exit the football championship.
His current role was copper-fastened following the appointment of Kearns, as Peter Creedon’s Tipperary successor.
“Even before it was known that he (Kearns) was being considered for it, I was ringing him about another issue,” Moriarty remembers.
“He told me he was in the running for it and asked would I be interested. I said ‘yeah, brilliant, it would be great’.
“We had a meeting in Birdhill and sat down for an hour. He said he’d get back to me and five or six days later he said he wanted me to get involved.”
It’s rolled on from there and already, the pair have achieved what they wanted to for 2016 – and then some.
“We set out goals for the year and we have reached those goals, bar promotion from Division 3,” says Moriarty.
“At the back of my mind now is how do we progress next year because the last thing you want is for a team to progress and take a step back. I learned this lesson a long time ago with the Limerick hurlers – we had a great year in 2007 but got a kick in the arse in 2008. The definition of insanity is doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.
“I have that mantra in training – we can’t expect to go as far next year if we do the same things. We have to progress and do a lot more work. That’s in the back of my mind.”
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