“Why would it mean something to me?” enquired Eamon O’Shea when asked what this 16-point victory meant to the Tipperary manager.
The Tipperary hurlers arrived into the Gaelic Grounds yesterday afternoon searching for a first Munster championship victory on O’Shea’s watch and pressure hung over the Premier boss to bring an end to their provincial rot; not since 1948 had Limerick secured three consecutive championship wins over their neighbours.
Their poor run of form against the Treatymen was corrected in most emphatic fashion, Tipperary scoring their biggest Munster championship victory over Limerick in 24 years.
O’Shea had cut a most animated figure on the sideline over the 70 minutes, tearing inside the whitewash on several occasions to rile up his players. This was a win, a performance that clearly struck a chord?
“It doesn’t mean anything for me except we won a game,” he said.
“I just manage these boys. Why would it mean something for me?” His proud tone clearly suggested otherwise, though.
“I’m proud of the players. The players are really good and working with these boys is such a joy. It gives me energy and that’s why I really want to see them do well. But for me? I’m not in the picture here.
“The players are the real heroes and I just sit and watch them. And some days we don’t, we’re not on song and some days you have to say… but they have an awful lot to do yet to get anywhere near where they want to be.
“But it’s never about the manager, ever.” O’Shea had expected a sterner test from the home outfit and was most pleased by the contributions of his team’s younger members.
“It probably was more emphatic than we thought. I thought there was still a lot of hurling left in the game. I thought we held our nerve when they came back at us and showed a lot of resilience. The experience gained over the last couple of years has been really good for us, you know? “In 2013, we didn’t get very far but we played the best game of the championship down in Kilkenny and you learn a lot down there. You get a lot of information.
“Last year, we failed to win the All-Ireland but we got a lot of experience. We’re not an inexperienced team but at the same time it’s very pleasing for me to see young players like Ronan Maher, Niall O’Meara and Jason Forde, and Bubbles is still young, and some players we got on the pitch.
“There’s been a transition as well over the last couple of years. We lost four or five of the top players in Ireland. Some people forget that: Eoin Kelly, Brendan Cummins, John O’Brien and Paul Curran. We lost really top-quality players and to replace those players, that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re not anywhere near the end of this, and maybe we won’t get to the end of it, but we’re very happy tonight.” O’Shea was impressed by the forward movement of his players, Seamus Callanan and Jason Forde earning particular praise.
“When they are okay, they’re okay. We spent a lot of time on [forward movement], we spent hours on this.
“It would be very foolish to come out a year again and not look for improvements. We look for improvements everywhere and Seamus [Callanan] is such a diligent player. He works very hard at what he tries to do and he’s a model in terms of working hard to get some improvement.”
On Jason Forde’s 1-3 contribution, he added: “I saw Jason go down and captain the Tipperary U21 team in Ennis last year and he worked so hard to try and get a victory down there. I never had any fears of Jason, I don’t think we’ve ever not started him when he’s available. I’ve huge time for Jason.
“Look out there, we were down a few players today. We had doubts about players coming in. Paddy Stapleton came in and was just brilliant in the first half until he got injured, Michael Cahill came in and hadn’t played for a long time, it was great to see. We had a young fella in Ronan Maher who gave us energy.” And then pause.
“I caution, you know, the summer is hardly started. It’s hardly started. That’s it, wait and see.”
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