Eamon O’Shea said it’s “critical” Tipperary string together a third strong performance in their Division 1 semi-final against Clare to add to their recent wins over Dublin and Cork.
The 2010 All-Ireland-winning coach has seen his side pull themselves from the brink of relegation to standing just two games away from the county’s first NHL title since 2008.
Now the manager wants them to push on and put in a display against the All-Ireland champions — something they didn’t do in the league proper game in Thurles last month when they went down by seven points.
He understood the supporters’ frustrations having seen the team lose three games on the bounce.
“I was tired of saying it in one sense that work was being put in on the training pitch,” admitted O’Shea on Tipp FM’s Extra Time yesterday evening. “We see the players a couple of times a week and even though things weren’t going for us morale was high and the spirit was very good.
“I think that reflected yesterday [Sunday against Cork] and the previous Sunday. I don’t think there is anything wrong with the spirit of the team, but our hurling was a little bit better yesterday.
“The public only see the team when they play on a Sunday so it’s understandable that they get anxious when they don’t see a performance. I don’t think we can have any complaints there in terms of the first few league games.
“What’s very pleasing for the team is they kept working, they put together two consistent performances. I think that’s the main thing. It’s critical now we get a third one when we play the semi-final.”
O’Shea said he is glad of the breather over the next three weeks as it will allow seven or eight players who weren’t available for selection on Sunday time to stake a claim for a starting place against Clare.
He revealed he will be picking his strongest line-up in the Gaelic Grounds on Easter Sunday. “Over the next week or so we should have everybody for selection, certainly over the next two weeks. We expect it to be very competitive to get on the team and that’s the way it should be.”
O’Shea wasn’t overly concerned by the 4-19 score conceded to Cork, which brings to 16-105 what they have had registered against them in their six league games. They had the worse defensive record in the Division 1 round stages.
He knows work has to be done to shore up the back line, but stresses the responsibility lies with everyone.
“Our defending starts further up the field in the forwards. Even though we’ve been conceding some goals I think not all of it can be laid at the door of the defence. We really need to tidy up as a team in the way we defend.
“The way the game is being played now I think you’ll probably get much higher scores than what we’ve been used to because certainly in the last two to three years the game has changed significantly in the way it’s set up. We probably have to be getting used to higher scores from all teams.”
O’Shea is also pleased he knows more about the players in front of him compared to last year’s league, when they reached the final only to lose to Kilkenny.
“The tail-end of the league last year, we probably played a few games where we got a false read of where we were. I don’t think there is any danger of that happening this year. I think we knew exactly where we are, the work we still have to do, which is significant to get ready for Limerick.”
Allianz Hurling League Division 1 semi-finals, Sunday April 20: Kilkenny v Galway, Gaelic Grounds 2pm (TG4 live); Tipperary v Clare, Gaelic Grounds 4pm (TG4 live).
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