FORMER star Eoin Kelly believes that Tipperary senior hurling manager Eamon O’Shea now possesses the strongest squad in the country.
Kelly (33), is hugely optimistic about the Premier County’s chances of achieving major silverware ahead of next Sunday’s Allianz Hurling League quarter-final clash with Offaly.
And six-time All Star Kelly has been massively enthused by Tipp’s last two League victories against Kilkenny and Cork.
Ahead of the quarter-finals this weekend, he told Tipp FM: “What Tipp have done is build a winning mentality into both weekends.
“Kilkenny was a big one to win for the younger generation and [for] a new team, it was great for them to get off on a winning start against the Kilkenny boys.
“The luxury of that is that you won’t see them (Kilkenny) for the rest of the League, if you see them in the championship. But the Cork one was massive. To be 12 points down and to come back and win by one. You can get in all of the sport psychologists in the world but young teams have to go through those situations to really build that inner belief into themselves as individuals and as a team. That’s what Tipp are doing brilliantly in this League so far.”
Michael Breen, Ronan Maher, John McGrath, Niall O’Meara and Jason Forde have put their hands up for summer championship starts and Kelly is also a massive fan of impact sub Conor Kenny, the former Kildare player.
Kelly said: “You can talk about all these names but the only way you’ll see them is by giving them game time. That’s what Eamon has given them during the League, which is brilliant.
“Guys need three or four games to be consistently playing and to show what they’re worth.
“You’re seeing that with Jason and the likes and Conor Kenny hit the equaliser against Cork and is a player I have massive time for.
“He’s nearly 6ft 1”, can win his own ball and is a serious player as well.
“He definitely has something to offer going forward and for me, Tipperary are going to have the strongest panel in League and championship for the 2015 season.”
And Kelly insisted that Tipp will now be going “all out” to win a first League crown since 2008.
He added: “They’ll just take next Sunday’s game against Offaly first.
“There are a few slippery games along the way but if Tipp can progress and get to a national final, they’ll be going all out to win it because these players work so hard even away from the Sundays when you see them playing in the League.
“They’re really committed to it and deserve silverware along with Eamon O’Shea.”
And Kelly believes that O’Shea is now stamping his coaching style all over the Tipperary team.
He explained: “You can see Eamon’s coaching coming through. He’d often to a drill one-handed and with Kieran Bergin’s goal (against Cork), he came off the shoulder of Seamus Callanan and one handed put serious power into that shot.
“These things just don’t happen. You can see Eamon’s coaching really coming through on match days. Tipp players’ mentality is strong and they have all the skill levels to be successful down the road again.”
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