Donal O’Grady’s shock departure from the Limerick camp wouldn’t be lulling Tipperary selector Michael Ryan into a false sense of security ahead of their Munster Senior Hurling Championship meeting on June 1.
Despite a league final with Kilkenny on Sunday, it seems impossible for Premier County players, management and fans to ignore the recent happenings across the county bounds.
But that is exactly what Ryan is attempting to do.
“From a Limerick perspective, I’m sure they could do without it. From our perspective our focus will be: ‘Look, don’t even waste any energy, don’t form any opinions — it’s nothing to do with us.’ What we’ll be saying is it’s business as usual.”
2013 was an almost identical scenario for Ryan and Tipp — a league final appearance against Kilkenny and then a date with Limerick in the Munster championship. Tipperary lost that league decider despite playing their part in one of the games of the year.
It suggested to all and sundry that the big two were again in place to dominate their respective provincial championships, on track to meet in yet another All-Ireland final — how wrong that assumption proved to be.
“It’s not that we underestimated Limerick,” Ryan continued. “But we got it wrong this time last year, and specifically in the period between the league final and playing Limerick.
“We’re highly aware we’re moving into a very important period for ourselves now. We felt we lost something in that period (last year), you can fall into some kind of a false sense that you’re playing at a certain kind of level — which we were, to be fair, in that league final against Kilkenny.
That’s as good a level as you can play at that point. I think what happened after that is that we lost our continuity and we didn’t pick it back up in time for the challenge we got in the Gaelic Grounds. And paid a fine price.”
They knew they were facing into a major challenge at the Gaelic Grounds, they just didn’t know just how big it was going to be and a little loss of edge did indeed cost them.
“I think that’s inevitably what happened and we don’t like it. To be honest, I think it’s a failure at our side of the table,” admits Ryan.
“That’s exactly what you want your management to avoid and protect our guys against. We should have known better. I’ve never played anything but a committed Limerick side.
“I was unfortunate enough to play on a team that was up by 10 points in the Gaelic Grounds and turned around (1996 Munster final, Limerick came back and won after a replay). There’s loads of form in terms of what Limerick can do to you if you’re not 100% right. Look, there’s nothing we can do about (2013) now but I can tell you that we agonised plenty about it, from July, because we’d a lot of time.”
They can do something about this year however, lessons learned. “I think we have other levels to go. We are happy with the year to date where we’re at, in terms of coming through a league which was tough, that we didn’t have a huge amount of time to work on the greater part of the game.
“We expect our training to go up several notches. And the change we will be looking for this year, once we play the league final on Sunday, yes there is a four-week period from that to the Limerick game, there are a couple of rounds of club scheduled and that’s exactly how it should be, but we won’t lose touch in the middle.”
There will be no Lar Corbett on Sunday but Ryan reports an easing of the injury nightmare that struck during the spring: “Paudie Maher, Bonner Maher, Gearoid Ryan, Niall O’Meara, they’re all back.”
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