Tipperary captain Brendan Maher wants Tipperary to remain as traditional as possible in the midst of the tactical changes sweeping through hurling.
Michael Ryan’s men may feel compelled into re-jigging things as the championship unfolds but Maher admits that a move towards a more defensive system would be done reluctantly.
“For ourselves we’re trying to keep the traditional approach,” says Maher.
“We are very traditional in Tipperary, we believe in simplistic hurling.
“You have to acknowledge the game is evolving and we have to be able to adapt to different systems that have a sweeper or extra defensive set-ups.
“When you are faced with it, you have to change your style of play to overcome it. “You have to strike a balance.”
An extra defender would almost be anathema to Tipperary. Maher says the county is not one to follow the crowd.
“I don’t think it’s in our nature, it has never happened before. If it does happen it will not be by choice, it won’t be our style of play. But it will be a reaction to someone else. Our style of play won’t change.
“It will still be conventional hurling, trying to move the ball quickly and trying and use our skill levels as much as possible. We believe in our system and our style of play and we believe that’s the right style for us to play. We want to put our own Tipperary stamp on it, hurl the way we want to and express ourselves as much as possible.”
Watching the Division 1 final and replay, Maher, particularly as a midfielder, appreciates the middle third of the field has become a minefield in hurling.
“Your heart would pick up a few beats,” is how he described his reaction to what took place between Clare and Waterford. “You say ‘right, we need to be ready now’. You know you’re going to be involved in those type of games.
“As a player, you want to be involved in good, open conventional hurling, 15 v 15. Beat your own man. That’s the ideal situation but you have to give credit to the other teams as well that are playing to their strengths. Tactically they are very aware, they are using their strengths very well and it’s working for them.”
The introduction of physically imposing players to the Tipperary panel at the end of last year suggested Ryan was changing his approach.
Maher, who believes the group are “very close” to emulating the county’s 2010 All-Ireland success, isn’t so certain. “I don’t think it’s as simple as that. It’s maybe about combining a balance of playing to our strengths. I think we need to do that more and not get bogged down on trying to be over-physical. I think we’re as physical as any team. I think there is a perception out there that because we have skilful hurlers that they’re not physical.
“But we wouldn’t be contesting Munster finals and an All-Ireland final if we weren’t physical enough. I wouldn’t say it’s a case of getting more physical and that’s it. It’s about combining a lot of things, really.” Maher complements the athleticism of Michael Breen in the middle – “He does the running and I hold the middle, it’s great!”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved