Limerick boss still has sleepless nights before major games

Limerick’s TJ Ryan believes he is now better prepared for the rigours of managing his native county through an All-Ireland championship campaign than was the case a year ago.

The Garryspillane man assumed sole control of Limerick 13 months ago, on the back of the decision by his then co-manager Donal O’Grady to step away from his role after a disagreement with the county board.

It left Ryan, his selectors and the team with just five weeks to steady the ship, which they did manfully thanks to a narrow defeat of Tipperary in Thurles, before Cork relieved them of their Munster title and Kilkenny dashed their All-Ireland hopes in the last four.

Ryan, who had previously worked under O’Grady as a senior selector in 2011, spoke last summer about the sleepless nights given the buck now stopped with him and how thoughts of game-plans and players blotted out all else while driving.

“I said last year that every day was a school day and I wouldn’t be going too far away from that,” he explained ahead of Sunday’s Munster opener against Clare in Thurles.

“You do learn every single day you go out. Every training session you try to learn something new. Experience for me is key. Having been there on the sideline and involved on the pressure cooker days does help. I’ll still have sleepless nights before the game, but having been there done that is definitely a help.”

If one element of the job has opened his eyes more than any other, it is the relentless accumulation of statistics and the accompanying need to break down games into the minutiae by examining them from every conceivable angle, both literal and metaphorical.

That requires a physical and emotional separation from the white heat of the action as it is absorbed on the sideline and Ryan has come to learn that a game and its component parts assemble very differently when put together via TV or PC screen. Analysis pre-throw-in can be just as complicated.

“It’s difficult from the point of view that there’s so many scenarios you go through in your head. You’re trying to plan as many situations as you can. It is enjoyable at times. Even from our point of view, there is plenty banter going on amongst our backroom team about different scenarios, different personnel, what style they’re going to play, could they abandon a traditional gameplan? All of that gets brought up.

“At times it’s enjoyable. At times, you could look at a player and do your stats and have a lot of information, then look at a different game and they could have been off form so you see something completely different. You just tear the page up and start again.”

In his recent book ‘Dalo’, Anthony Daly wrote about the time Ireland coach Joe Schmidt looked over the list of pre-match points Daly intended highlighting for his Dublin players and admitted the Kiwi was taken aback by the sheer volume. Core messages delivered in short, sensible prose are key.

“I think Louis Van Gaal said recently that he spends about a minute to a minute-and-a-half with his players on match day,” Ryan said. “There’s a saying that sometimes less is more. Each to his own effectively.” Ultimately, the right approach is the winning one. Ryan accepts as much as Limerick look to ape their previous pair of summers by confounding the sort of poor league form that again leaves them languishing in Division 1B.

“This game is a results business,” he agreed. “Everyone knows that. “The league, we took it very seriously. We were without a number of key players. We don’t make excuses and I’m not making excuses. It didn’t work out for us and when that’s over we had no choice but to knuckle down.”



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