The Premier boss says he is not ‘anti-change’ but holds the traditionalist point of view that the first Sunday in September was synonymous with the concluding afternoon of the hurling championship and therefore, should have been left alone.
The 2018 All-Ireland hurling decider will be played on August 19, two weeks earlier than usual, with the semi-finals pencilled in for Saturday and Sunday, July 28 and 29. The quarter-finals are be decided on Sunday, July 15.
“It was a mistake,” Ryan said of removing the hurling final from its familiar September slot.
“For me, the first Sunday in September, that was the All-Ireland final day, the culmination.
“We are pulling it back, and I understand the reasons, that it’s now going to go back to the clubs to get into their own championships. “Look, something had to give. And I am not anti-change, but that date in our diary was a fixture and it was the right time to conclude our championship. It will feel a bit unusual next year.”
Those dates were altered at Congress back in February. Further changes were voted in at the more recent Special Congress, chief among them being the restructuring of the Munster and Leinster hurling championships, both moving from knockout to round-robin.
Ryan, while not critical of the switch, doesn’t believe it was needed.
“Did Munster need any tinkering with? I would say no. The structure has changed. We have to deal with it. It is unchartered waters for us all in terms of how we are going to plan, in terms of being ready for May 20. Two of us in Munster won’t survive. The implications of that are pretty stark.
“Qualifiers have been quite generous to us all. It has been a second chance saloon. This is a round-robin, you are standing up at the end of the day or you are not.”
The Tipperary County Board have already decided there will be club action in April and Ryan predicts some of his players could play as many as four games during that month. Thereafter, he’ll have three weeks of uninterrupted preparation leading into their provincial opener away to Limerick. There will follow three more games in Munster over four weeks and the manager has questioned the wisdom of squeezing such an amount of games into a relatively short timeframe.
“There’ll be divisional games in Tipp for the first three weeks in April. After that, you have two rounds of county championship, one hurling and one football. Thurles Sarsfields will probably play all those games, with the exception of the football. Loughmore could play every one of them. Players are excited by the prospect of having all these games [with club and county]. I’m not sure how wise it is. That’s unprecedented to have that kind of volume of games in quick succession without a break.”
2018 will be Ryan’s ninth year on the sideline with the Premier County since 2008. It is an incredible commitment, having served under the watches of Liam Sheedy and Eamon O’Shea before taking the reins in 2016.
What keep him going?
“I suppose a little bit of madness. I keep saying, it’s one of the few great things, outside of rearing family, that you are doing.
“March, I always think, is the deadline. If you survive March, you will probably be there for the rest of the year. Between now and March is the funny time. Three or four bad performances and we could have a big vacancy in Tipperary.”
Certainly, they were motoring very well up to March of this year.
Then came the league final thumping at the hands of Galway and it is questionable if they ever recovered.
“We had a very disappointing season, by any standards. The league final hurt us, hurt us deeply.”
Indeed, the Upperchurch-Drombane club man agrees with the recent assertion of Brendan Cummins that Tipperary looked like they were “going to work” when trying to defend Liam MacCarthy.
“It was unchartered territory for us in that we don’t get to call ourselves champions too often and when we do, you’re just working so hard to do something special which would be to put one back-to-back. That would be a fantastic achievement in Tipp but it’s eluded us for I don’t know how many years now. Did we wear the tag well as champions? We did, to a point.
“We were in that All-Ireland semi-final right up to the last puck of the game. With a little bit of luck, it may have been a different story.”
Returning to the 2018 season, he stresses the foolishness of dismissing Kilkenny as title contenders.
“Kilkenny haven’t gone away and neither has Brian Cody. But, there is a little bit more of a feel of they being within everyone’s sights. Everyone can look at an opposition and say, ‘yeah, we have a really good chance here,’ whereas a number of years ago that wasn’t the case. These guys just beat you anyway.”