Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea is confident that the Premier County can smash their recent Limerick hoodoo in next Sunday’s Munster SHC semi-final at the Gaelic Grounds.
Tipp haven’t beaten the Shannonsiders since 2012 in championship hurling, and have lost in the last two seasons against their weekend opponents.
But optimistic O’Shea is backing his emerging young guns to make a big impact in the Gaelic Grounds cauldron, as the Kilruane MacDonaghs man goes in search of a first provincial championship victory since taking charge in 2012.
O’Shea told Tipp FM: “It’s up to other people to look at the past — I’m concentrating on now and the future.
“The team is concerned with what they think is most important and firmly focused on what’s going to happen next Sunday.” Tipp have been without a competitive game since losing the Allianz League semi-final to Waterford in April but O’Shea doesn’t view that as a concern.
He explained: “What sometimes people don’t realise is that a break like that gives you an opportunity to do things like strength and conditioning, which we needed.
“We started back later than all of the other teams with the exception of Kilkenny, and we’ve allowed them to play with their clubs.
“With (county) matches nine weeks apart, we let them back to their clubs for two or three weeks to hurl away there. We wouldn’t be using that (break) as any excuse.”
O’Shea acknowledges that Tipperary fans travelling to Limerick on Sunday will demand a victory to set up a Munster final clash against Waterford on July 12. And the 2010 All-Ireland-winning coach under Liam Sheedy is confident of achieving something big in his final year in charge before handing over the reins to current assistant Michael Ryan.
O’Shea said: “Of course people want to win next Sunday. What people forget is that we have a strong-willed bunch of players, they’re resilient and came through a campaign last year to the All-Ireland final. We bring something to these games as well, sometimes people forget that but that’s ok with us.
“It’s a brilliant occasion, going down to Limerick. Not withstanding the last time (2013), we really like going down and testing ourselves there. For anybody who loves hurling, it’s a great game to be looking forward to. I’m sure TJ (Ryan) and Limerick are thinking the same.
“Looking back over last season in terms of the support we got from our supporters, we need them again now and if we can all travel together, it will be a great boost for us down there. I’m really looking forward to it, I can’t wait.
“All I can say is we certainly have had good preparation and our belief system is strong. We’re meeting a formidable team with ambitions of their own for the All-Ireland.
“That’s only as it should be — two good teams going hammer and tongs.” Regular game time throughout the Allianz Hurling League for Ronan Maher and Michael Breen, players who can operate in the half-back line or midfield, have added depth to O’Shea’s squad.
In attack, Jason Forde, Niall O’Meara and John McGrath did their chances of championship inclusion no harm at all during the spring campaign.
O’Shea added: “We have our younger players that have come on the scene — Ronan Maher, Mikey Breen, Jason Forde, Niall O’Meara, John McGrath.
“We have a couple more young fellas like Barry Heffernan in the squad, Bill Maher, Tom Fox, Conor Kenny.
“We have a lot of younger players now and over the next few seasons those lads will be making their mark.
“There’s huge belief in the squad and in our hurling and what we bring.
“We can certainly compete with the best and that’s what we’ll be doing next Sunday.”
Meanwhile Eoin Kelly has whetted the appetite for a blood and thunder Munster hurling championship tie between Tipperary and Limerick by suggesting there will be some huge hits, writes Paul Keane.
Tipperary are seeking to avoid three defeats in a row to Limerick in their province and Kelly said the sense of focus in their build--up reminds him of their game with Kilkenny in this year’s Allianz League.
Tipp were similarly seeking to end a long losing streak at Kilkenny’s hands and duly won that game by 12 points.
Former All-Ireland winning Tipp captain Kelly said what was particularly significant about that contest was the amount of shuddering challenges dished out by Tipp’s players.
The appointment of Brian Gavin as referee this weekend, largely accepted as one of the game’s most liberal officials, has already opened up the prospect of a charged up affair.
“The Kilkenny league game for me has similarities for what we’re going into on Sunday,” said Kelly. “Tipp hadn’t beaten Kilkenny in league or championship for what was it, one out of 10 times or something? So they were really up for that game.
“The amount of Kilkenny guys that were picking themselves up off the ground that day, it was unbelievable. I know they were missing seven or eight Kilkenny lads that day but still Tipp were very physical. I remember even Walter Walsh was picking himself up off the ground that day, going to the ref for a word. I think Cathal Barrett hit him. You could see the will to win that day with the Tipp players. If that’s there Sunday and with Tipp’s natural ability, I think Tipp will be victorious.”
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