The last person to ask about the quality of the hurling championship is someone who’s involved in it.
Eamon O’Shea’s views on the state of the game are always worth listening to, but the Tipperary manager has had other things on his plate lately.
Munster finals. All-Ireland semi-finals. They’re distracting.
“You’re looking at your own team and you want them to win, so you’re not concerned about the overview of the championship like the media or the public. What you’re trying to do is think about winning the next game.
“I wouldn’t be able to give a true perspective on any overview of the championship. If you ask me in six months’ time, I might be able to. All I can tell you is that the two games we played have been hard games to win.”
Winning the Munster title has meant a different approach to last year’s back-door odyssey.
“When you get a run of games, your whole training structure is different. When you have a four or five-week break, your training structure is different again.
“I’d place a lot of emphasis on the club scene. What’s important for amateur players is that you need a break from the training as well.
“Sometimes you just need to get back to your club and hurl for a couple of weeks with the lads locally and take a break.”
O’Shea is keen on players maintaining perspective on and off the field.
“I’m not sure if it’s the pressures but it’s the humdrum-ness of it all. If you’re coming in for three or four nights, I certainly feel that the players need perspective, that they need to be doing other things as well. Particularly with their own clubs. From a perspective of career and education, I’d always be encouraging players to put their education and career very high on their agenda.
“It’s very important that we have careers because your career will long outlast your hurling prowess, however good you are and it would be a big mistake to do anything to damage your long-time earnings.”
Perspective can work a different way, too. O’Shea stresses the continuity that ensures older players can provide some context to new arrivals on the panel.
“We have serious, serious people who work hard with the young lads coming in.
“Things have evolved a little bit over the last number of years. A lot of the older players helped that happen, even some of the lads who have retired now, and brought that along.
“I was surprised myself when I looked at the Munster final team and I think we had nine fellas who hadn’t won a Munster medal before.
“It takes a while to build up that level of experience and know-how to enable you to win big matches.”
Tipp were able to revive their season last year when Galway had them by the throat in Thurles, but O’Shea isn’t expecting that game to have a bearing on Sunday, though he was impressed by their dismissal of Cork in the quarter-finals.
“I wouldn’t be looking back over matches and trying to make conjectures about games that have gone by and sort of extrapolate from what happened last year to this year.
“Seasons are different and I think teams do learn from their experiences, no more than we did, so I think you are going to see a very different game than previous games.
“You can’t second-guess the type of game that is coming up, all I know is that it’s going to be difficult.
“They got a brilliant start (against Cork), their movement was good and everything about the display was first class.
“On any given day, if a team hits that kind of form, whether it be Galway or any other teams, and if the other team is in any way off, it can happen to any of us. They have the capacity to do that to teams.”
In three seasons, it’ll be 30 years since Galway won an All-Ireland, but O’Shea’s slow to criticise.
“We’ve had our ups and downs as well over the years. It’s not only other teams.
“Sometimes you get breaks, sometimes a small thing can blow you off course for a while. I wouldn’t be making any comments on anybody else.
“We’ve had our own ups and downs, as I know too well. I try to address those and that takes enough of my time, in terms of trying to understand what goes on. Big games are won by a point and can change and move in one direction rather than another.
“You get all the games that go with that and losing a game by a point, you get the negativity that goes with that. Sometimes it takes a while to recover that ground. We’ve had that in Tipp.”
When Tipp finish the season, O’Shea’s tenure as manager ends.
That doesn’t mean he’s counting down. “No, for me I couldn’t tell you what I did yesterday and I’m not sure what I’m doing tomorrow unless somebody tells me. That’s the truth.
“We live in the now because it’s the only time we have. I think it’s a good philosophy for life because you don’t know anything about what’s going to happen in the future. I’m really enjoying it.”
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