This is Pat Ryan’s second year as Sarsfields senior hurling manager and he’s on course for a 100% strike-rate.
In 2012, Ryan – not long retired from playing – guided Sars to their third county SHC title in five years, but work commitments at Pfizer meant last year he limited his involvement to the minor team.
Back for the current campaign, taking over a side which lost the 2013 county final to Midleton, he has brought them to Sunday’s final against Glen Rovers in Páirc Uí Chaoimh (3.30pm). Recognising there wasn’t any need for changes across the board, Ryan sought to make small tweaks to the set-up.
“Paul O’Sullivan and Brian Roche have been involved for the last few years,” he says, “and I got Paddy Gahan and Conor McGrath, two guys I played senior with. They brought a freshness, different ideas and different views , which was vital. Obviously, there was a bit of a down period, but we didn’t go back really until the start of April. We let fellas work away in the gym and when they came back they were hungry. We were maybe a few weeks behind other teams at that stage, but now we feel we’re coming right at the right time. ”
Though he has played with many of the players he now manages, the lines of demarcation are understood. “I’d like to think the lads would know I’d be straight and honest with them and I’d have Sars’ interests at heart,” Ryan says.
“That would be paramount in the way I’d want to do things, you have to behave in an honest way and the lads see that. I would have good knowledge of all the lads and the ones coming up as I was with the minors last year. That can have its detriments too as you might be a bit biased towards fellas. But that can’t come into picking the team, you have to pick the best team.”
Having lost to Douglas in the opening round, Sars gradually found form. That the second-round clash against Bride Rovers came so quickly after the Douglas game was a help. “It came at the right time and the great thing was that we had the Cork players too,” Ryan says.
“When you have an extra week, you get them involved a bit more and they make a huge difference. They lift the whole thing because they’re at a very high standard and have high expectations of the rest of the lads and the management team to train them.
“Then, against a divisional side like Carrigdhoun, you don’t know what you’re going to get, but you do know the hurlers you’re going to be facing are good hurlers. We missed a lot of chances that day and they played some good hurling, it was a very dead day but, don’t get me wrong, we were very disappointed with how we performed.
“We didn’t go after them or go after the game and against the Barr’s I think we changed that around.”
With Na Piarsaigh seen off in the semi-final, the task is now to beat the Glen. It’s a repeat of the 2010 final, which Sars won, and their sixth since 2008. Experience can be a big asset, Ryan feels. “I think it’s a huge help, it means that we have confidence that lads can perform on the day,” he says.
“The only final where we haven’t really performed was the Newtown one in 2009 and I’d be very confident the lads can perform to a high level on Sunday. Whether that’s good enough, we’ll have to see.”
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