Former Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy believes the current group have come in for “harsh” and “unjustified” criticism following last month’s Division 1 final loss to Galway.
Michael Ryan’s team were subjected to a 16-point defeat, which in the minds of some has cast the All-Ireland champions in a lesser light as they embark on their provincial defence against Cork this Sunday.
But Sheedy, who has experience of being judged severely following the 2010 Munster opening loss to Cork before guiding Tipperary to All-Ireland success, has rejected some of the brickbats thrown at the team.
“Sometimes when you win you’re put up on a pedestal that isn’t really realistic and then when you lose they just drive you down to rock bottom. The reality is, this team went and won five in a row last year, the first team since the 60s to go from a quarter-final right through, win Munster, win the All- Ireland, really impressive all through.
“So I think these guys will have been mad hungry for championship and, yeah, I think their guard is up because you’ve to learn from what went on in Limerick, and they’ve a bit of ammunition now because I think people have spoken harshly on them, unjustified in my view and they’ll get a chance to answer back (v Cork).”
Sheedy accepts the nature of the defeat to Galway was hardly helpful but knows the game doesn’t rank as high for the players and management as much as the forthcoming clash. “Let’s put everything in perspective – if you’re going to go and, again, where they clearly had set out their stall, where it was something that they wanted to win and it doesn’t happen, not alone does it not happen but you’re beaten on every position on the pitch, I would probably say the Cork game has taken on a greater importance in that regard.
“It’s in Thurles, it’s home advantage, Tipp have been very strong. I guess, do you judge Tipp on one day or do you judge Tipp over the previous 12 games that they’d played in last year’s championship and this year’s league?
“And I would say that there’s 12 pieces of data there that says this Tipp team is really top class and I wouldn’t be too upset about the one. People are sometimes very quick to jump on them. They’ve won six of the last nine Munster titles.”
Tipperary go into the game without Kieran Bergin, who left the panel before committing himself to the footballers last week.
“Ah look, Kieran probably hadn’t seen a lot of game time this year. I think Kieran’s probably been an impact sub up to this. He’s a good guy but we have seen over the course of the league that there is good talent coming through.
“I think Kieran has been a great servant, he’s won his All-Ireland medal, he’s got his Munster medals but I think the panel is strong enough to deal with it.” This time last year, the likes of Dan McCormack and Seamus Kennedy were relatively unknown hurling entities. Donagh Maher, Sheedy reckons, could be the next to surprise after he impressed him during the league.
“I thought I saw something really good in him, he was really impressive. Then he got concussion and he picked up a hamstring injury so he’s been very, very unfortunate but I think he’s someone that, if he gets back to full fitness, that I could see really challenging.
“I think the Tipperary full-back line will be hurting and scalded a little bit after their performance (v Galway) because they’re a line that had got so consistent throughout last year and this year so, yeah, I can just imagine the internal 15 on 15 matches are fairly lively.”
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