Chicago, New York, San Francisco… Kieran Bergin has watched Tipperary games from some unusual places and last Sunday he added Cork University Hospital to the list, his wife Aishling delivering Cillian.
So it was a joyous occasion anyway as Bergin viewed that second-half rebirth of the team he departed last year. Jake Morris’ equalising score had him cheering but it was Seamus Callanan’s graft that stood out for him.
“Seeing Seamie coming down 60 yards to hook a lad, that’s phenomenal workrate that is there. People say there isn’t enough work in this team but it’s massive; we just don’t always see it when things aren’t going our way.”
Tipperary are without a win in three competitive games but that stretch shouldn’t extend beyond tomorrow, Bergin senses.
“I’m quietly confident that they’re going to come back and win the Munster. One or two results mightn’t go their way but there’s going to be a backlash. The training they would have done over the winter would have been primed for this three-week spell. All going well, we’ll see them go out and destroy Waterford and get the scoring difference back in their favour.”
Tipperary may have finally found their groove but it hasn’t been without pain. The “misfires”, as Bergin describes them, in back-to-back Division 1 finals and back-to-back Munster openers.
“Nobody goes out to play bad, as we all know, and that Tipperary team have far more potential than any other team in the country. I think everybody knows that. The critics have been saying Michael Ryan has been testing out too many players. He took a chance against Limerick but it didn’t work.
“In Mick’s defence, they were probably the players who were shining in training. Maybe the big stage got to the boys but at the same time Limerick is a very hard place to go. I think we only beat them there once out of three or four times when we played them there. I don’t think people are giving Limerick as much credit as they deserve.”
Bergin preaches what most have been saying about Tipperary — the supply lines to the attack have been lacking.
“The one pitfall I can see for Tipperary is their delivery of ball to the forwards. You have a seriously primed forward line there and there’s not another forward line in the country that is a potent as them. However, if they’re not getting the right ball, they’re at a disadvantage.
“I don’t know how we sway away from it but we are inclined to revert back to sending in a lot of high ball. I don’t know if it’s a thing with Tipperary that we want to win our high ball but at the end of the day if you buy a Ferrari you’re not going to put unleaded petrol into it, you’re going to put in premium. And they need to receive premium ball.
“You saw in 2016 how Kilkenny weren’t able to deal with it. If they get the right ball, they can set the tone for the rest of the team. Get a score early and a forward is on his way but if four or five high balls are sent his way and he loses them it’s a different story.
“A high ball is a back man’s dream. Every ball obviously can’t be hit in low but more of them have to be more strategic in how they are sent in. If that was tweaked a little bit, I think that Tipperary team would be unstoppable and I still think they’re going to go on. I think there’s going to be a backlash.”
Bergin’s Killenaule are well represented in the panel with his business partner, John O’Dwyer, with whom he owns Bubbles Hurleys, Joe O’Dwyer, and Paudie Feehan.
“Bubbles has been hitting a few wides, which would normally go over, but they will click for him. He has always been criticised about his work-rate but I have seen it first-hand at club and county level and it is high if not higher than most. It just doesn’t always come across that way.
“Paudie Feehan would be very young but there’s great potential in him. Mick, Declan (Fanning), and the boys made the right decision to bring him in. He’s a big, strong player and he’s skilful as well. He’s definitely a player who can be moulded and in the right environment he will grow.
“Joe is a fantastic hurler and is always lording it for us at club level and deserves his place in the team but he’s just been very misfortunate with injuries. I feel extremely bad for him. Just as he has been getting his swing back, some sort of knock comes but he’s there now.
“The last few years have been good. We have a good contingency of players and we’ve never really had a problem producing them. Keeping them was always the problem because we would have suffered with emigration. We’re hopeful enough for the year but without being too honest I don’t think a county final is going to be our goal with the likes of (Thurles) Sarsfields there. They have so many county players.”
Bergin, 32, wouldn’t mind a taste of these four games in 21 days but he’s not looking back in anger even if he gave a hard-hitting interview to The Star earlier this year when he said inter-county players were treated like children.
He cites the grants stand-off between the GPA and Sport Ireland as an example of how overbearing the scene can be.
“The players abided by the rules last year. It’s another aspect of the GAA that is very minuscule. The GAA should step in and pay it themselves.”
As for his decision to switch briefly to the footballers after leaving the hurlers, what’s done is done.
“My own frustrations are my own frustrations. I’d look back and have no regrets. When I retired and spoke to Mick on the phone, I told him that. He thought I would have had (regrets) but I didn’t. It didn’t bother me. I wanted to leave. It was one of those decisions. I could see the boys’ point of view because they wanted to blood new players. At the same time, it was too time-consuming for me.”
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