Tipperary manager Michael Ryan said notions that Kilkenny won’t be contenders this year are well wide of the mark and he expects a big response from Brian Cody’s men.
The traditional Tipperary-Kilkenny rivalry has been to the forefront, not just since Ryan took charge of the Premier County over two years ago, but during his spells on the management team of Liam Sheedy from 2007 and later when Eamonn O’Shea was in charge.
Ryan guided Tipp to their 2016 All-Ireland final win over Kilkenny in his first season in charge and doesn’t subscribe to the view that the Cats are in decline after a disappointing campaign last year.
He said that the hunger and big scores chalked by Kilkenny in the Walsh Cup, albeit against weaker sides, has set the tone for a response this year from Cody and his men.
“The ball still has to go over the bar, the goals still have to go into the net,” said Ryan about Kilkenny’s January scoring form.
“Anyone who is writing up Kilkenny’s demise will be proved wrong, they have done that several times in the past.
“I am certainly not a subscriber to that view. 2018 is going to be a brilliant championship. It’s novel to start with, but it’s going to be a brilliant championship. It will test us all, even on the sideline, in terms of how we manage our affairs and how we get through it and use our players,” said Ryan, whose third season in charge starts in Ennis on Sunday when they take on Clare.
The Upperchurch-Drombane clubman said a competitive league will lay the foundation for the new championship format and he is looking forward to getting it off and running this weekend.
“The standard of every game in Division 1A is relentless. We love that and the boys love that, because every game is real and matters. It doesn’t be long coming around.
“Clare are in great form. We saw them out in Fenway Park. They were really, really well advanced. They beat us and they beat Galway out there and their tails are up. We will be expecting no different when we go down to see them in Cusack [Park].
“It will be a very interesting league. We will all scramble to gather up these points and no-one will give anyone a free ride, but everybody has the same ambition. Do as well as you can, get to the quarter-finals. That’s the first target on everyone’s calendar at the start of the year. Obviously, out of Division 1A, the competition has been really really good. It’s been a super league for the last number of years,” said Ryan, targeting a first league title for Tipp since 2008.
Elsewhere, Limerick forward Tom Morrissey believes the Treaty County have the ideal blend of youth and experience to finally make the breakthrough this season.
John Kiely’s side won the Munster hurling league and begin their NHL campaign at home to Laois at the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday.
The 21-year-old Ahane clubman won All-Ireland U21 titles in 2015 and 2017 and was also part of the Limerick side who lost to Kilkenny in the 2014 minor final.
However, after a disappointing season with the senior side, who were knocked out by Kilkenny in the first round of the qualifiers, he is optimistic that Limerick will be a more potent threat this time around.
“Training at this time of the year is always a tough slog, but we got through the toughest part of the year so far,” said Morrissey.
“After a lot of talk about the U21 teams from 2015 and 2017, we do have a very young panel with a good mix of older lads that add the experience that you need to compete and win at this level.
“There is a good mix and, hopefully, we can be positive for the year ahead.”
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