MICHAEL Ryan says Tipperary will face the “masters of intensity” in the All-Ireland senior hurling final on September 4.
Tipp’s victory over Galway yesterday set up another September collision with the Cats – but manager Ryan warned a repeat performance won’t be good enough in less than three weeks’ time.
Ryan was pleased, nonetheless, to see his charges edge home in a close encounter, the kind of game they might have lost in previous seasons.
A year ago, Tipp were on the wrong end of a one-point defeat to Galway but revenge was sweet as the Premier County celebrated victory by the bare minimum.
Ryan said: “We’re thrilled, absolutely.
“There’s no silverware for a semi-final but, in a sense, there’s a lot more on offer.
“The chance to get to hurling’s Holy Grail, playing on the first Sunday in September, that’s every team’s wish in January.
“We’re there. It wasn’t pretty but we’re delighted, and it was a great kind of game to win.”
He added: “I think it’s an important win, I wouldn’t underestimate it. It’s well documented that we’ve struggled to win those kinds of games in the past.
“Whether you like being associated with that or not, it’s a fact. To turn one around and win a tight one is nice because the prize is great.
“I can’t change the facts, the facts are we failed far too often to win them, most of the time against top opposition that go on and win big prizes.”
Ryan pulled a rabbit from the hat when he brought on John ‘Bubbles’ O’Dwyer 10 minutes into the second-half.
And the Killenaule hitman – champing at the bit after serving a one-match ban – nailed a crucial goal with nine minutes left.
Ryan smiled: I don’t need to tell ye the kind of talent Bubbles O’Dwyer has, he’s a hugely talented player, but it wasn’t just him. It’s a collective.
“The pressure on the backs (was immense)- in fairness, Galway were pressing, they really, really fought for this.
“It’s so obvious it meant so much to both groups, and we’re delighted to be at the right end of the result.
“If that game had gone on another two minutes it could have ebbed and flowed, we could have been on the wrong end of a one-point margin. We’re thrilled.”
But for spells in this game, Tipp looked flat and the inevitable question as to whether the five-week break had an effect was thrown in Ryan’s direction, as his players searched for high levels of intensity.
He said: “We’ll answer that a little bit easier in three weeks’ time – it may be nothing to do with the five weeks and to be fair, we have to credit Galway in this too.
“They didn’t come to make up numbers, they came here to win it, and they were ahead … I don’t know what the stats or the timelines were but I’d imagine they led for 50-60 minutes of that match. They dominated and they were ahead in the game and we had it all to do to stay in the game, first off, and try and engineer scores and be patient enough to create chances and take those chances.
“But to credit our guys – they never stopped trying. Yes, there were plenty of errors being made but look, they’re human, they’re amateurs. The effort of both teams was phenomenal. Both teams really, really tried to win it. I’m just so happy for our bunch that we’re the ones on the right side.”
He added: “I think we’re going to have to find a level of intensity far more consistent than we were able to show out there today. At times we got to it but not nearly a consistently enough and that’s the challenge. We’re playing the masters of intensity, they showed it again last night, that level of intensity that got them through their semi-final. That’s something we’re going to have to work on but you know, if I was sitting here telling you that we were perfect, we’d be in some trouble.”
Midfield dynamo Michael Breen believes Tipp now have the mental toughness required to edge home in close encounters.
He said: “It has been said that we die down in tight games, but not this year. “We’ve developed that mental toughness, we built on it throughout the league and the championship and I think we are just coming right. We don’t underestimate the challenge that lies ahead, Kilkenny are a mighty team and it will take more than what we performed today to beat them.”
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