Tipperary manager Michael Ryan doesn’t know where the game is going. Literally. He tells you he sees his players do things in training and he’s gobsmacked.
“Being honest I don’t know where it can go in terms of effort. It is constantly getting better. I am constantly looking at things our players are able to do. I am gobsmacked at what they able to achieve with such little time on the ball. It is the same with other teams as well.
“What Waterford and Kilkenny produced in Thurles in the semi-final replay was phenomenal, particularly in the opening 25 minutes. You struggled to keep up with it. In terms of the lads effort, it is a total effort they are giving. Absolutely total.
“What you are seeing is the next generation evolving, flair players coming through. They may only be once in a generation players, the likes of Austin Gleeson, a fabulous talent. I have seen them coming through in various counties. Waterford seem to have a lot of them at the moment, which is a great position to be in. They are sprinkled everywhere.” That’s the big picture. What about Sunday, and why a Kilkenny side has had its boot on Tipp’s neck for so long?
“I think you can put it simply down to it that they have trumped us each day on intensity. That is the initial bar we have to reach. If we can break even on that, and get a bit lucky here and there, who knows. Various little things can change things after that.
“I think intensity is the great leveller here, and their ability to be relentless on that. They never let that up. I don’t know when I have ever seen recent Kilkenny teams not reaching a high level of intensity. “I have zero doubt that is the challenge. We know exactly the levels that will be required and to sustain it over 72, 72, 74 minutes. It is not born out of past losses to Kilkenny.”
Ryan differentiates between this side and past Tipperary team: “This group is doing it for themselves.
“This is a new journey for them. They are having a fantastic run. We need to concentrate on the here and now, not past results against Kilkenny. Kilkenny’s victories are confined to history. Fantastic history for them, poor history for us, unfortunately.
“It is the here and now, and what we can do in the future is what is occupying us now.
“There is a consistency Kilkenny reach that the rest of us need to get to. At various stages we all are capable of getting to it, but none of us as yet have been able to sustain it as Kilkenny do.
“Even if they are only trading blows with you 50/50 they seldom let the intensity down at crucial periods.
Directly after half time they generally attack. Up to half time they can ebb and flow.
“But they are a really, really strong second-half team. They can put you to the sword is you are not ready.
“The given here is Kilkenny are past masters at this. They know the level and they will get to it. The variable is the rest of us. Will we get to the level? Can we sustain the level? Can we break through any perceived glass ceiling that is there?
“In fairness, no one created those glass ceilings only ourselves. Kilkenny have not been a sitting target for anyone. They have evolved. They have had a change in personnel. But the constant is the intensity.”
Ryan was frustrated by narrow defeats in the league; how important was it to come out on the right side of a close semi-final?
“For a very obvious reason it was hugely important. I wouldn’t like to have been picking the bones out of a one point loss. It certainly wasn’t a place any of us wanted to be.
You are not guaranteed anything just because you prepared very hard, because you enjoyed a good run in Munster. That guarantees you nothing.
“The game is a live thing. It ebbs. It flows. We set our broad parameters in how we wanted to play the game.
We wanted to reached certain level. But so did the opposition.
“Galway in this instance were really, really good. We didn’t get to the pitch we wanted to. But you have to credit Galway for that. They played a really good game.They were unlucky to lose two key guys to injury.
“Did it have an impact on the outcome? I have no doubt it did. Would we have been able to survive with those guys on the pitch? The challenge would have been ours. A win is a win. We only came to win. The manner didn’t matter. It was a satisfying win. Anything could have happened. That is why the game is so good. You are guaranteed nothing. If the result were known we would all be wealthy men.” Does the narrowness of the win dampen expectations?
“I think we have developed a very good knack in this county, from the team’s perspective, of giving a few performances that damped expectations a little in spite of ourselves. We don’t plan it. The semi-final was one of those occasions in a sense.
“Look, is it expectation or is it that we love the game? It depends on your viewpoint. Living in the heartland here, we just love the game. We love to play it. We have a great tradition in Tipperary.
“But we are a bit bereft of success in recent years. That is the Achilles heel we have, what we are not happy about. Expectations?
“I think it is more to do with desire. We are surrounded by our hurling neighbours. We give as good as we get.
“The banter is great. It is all part of it. You have got to win to have the bragging rights. At times that is a struggle.”
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