Bubbles wasn’t the only one waylaid by adrenalin yesterday. Michael Ryan doesn’t give off the impression of a man who deals in f-bombs although there was no microphone under the Tipperary manager’s nose when the final whistle shrilled and he danced a jig with his three selectors.
But before he knew it he was off, scooting onto the pitch to continue the celebrations where it may have been the stray hurley to the back of his head that caused him to stop, turn on his heels and finally seek out Brian Cody for the customary handshake and murmured words.
His mind was still lost in that fog of adrenalin and joy by the time he found his way to the press bunker to share some thoughts. Stats, such as Seamus Callanan’s personal haul of 13 points, escaped him. So too the 1-8 to 0-2 swing in Tipp’s favour after Kevin Kelly’s goal.
“You miss all that on the sidelines lads, I can tell you that!”
The bigger picture he recalled well enough. Ryan liked what he saw from the off. Tipperary’s sights on goal needed recalibrating once too often but their intensity couldn’t be faulted.
There wasn’t one moment in the entire afternoon when the Tipperary manager felt the game was slipping from their grasp. Then again it took until near the last whistle, deep into the third minute of injury-time when eight points separated them from their pursuers, for Ryan to allow himself to believe the day was won.
This was Kilkenny after all. Destroyers of dreams.
“You can never say that you have this game won because a goal is such a big score and it could have happened at any time,” he explained.
Once bitten, twice shy and all that.
There were fine words delivered for the likes of Seamus Callanan and John O’Dwyer, and for the collective too, but Ryan was asked to delve deeper into this victory’s backstory. Back to the days when Tipp’s issues appeared inoperable and Kilkenny’s shadow inescapable.
For the last five years the county suffered under Cody. Added to that was a litany of narrow championship defeats to various opponents since that last All-Ireland triumph in 2010. So many doubts.
All of them answered emphatically yesterday.
“I would have felt all season this team would have answered the questions that have been directed towards them. It’s very hard to win against top-class opposition. I can say that now because we’ve won, but for all the other counties who have failed down through the years it is so difficult.
“We were playing the most successful team that has ever played the game and the most successful manager who has managed in any sport, as far as I’m concerned, be it hurling or football. That’s just a tribute to where Kilkenny have taken their game over the last 12 years.
“So I wouldn’t beat myself up too much or any of these previous Tipperary teams. We’re certainly not happy about it but you just have to keep believing and keep doing the right things and that’s testament to what we saw out there today - that we did.”
It was, he said, a victory for a group unafraid to cross the line. The same could be said for him. Ryan stood up when asked to be a selector under Liam Sheedy, for a second time when Eamon O’Shea picked up the baton in 2012 and it was Ryan who agreed to succeed O’Shea when the latter still had a year to go on his term in office.
It looked like a risky strategy at the time.
“Yeah, well, it was probably a bit unusual but it was very well intentioned and the intention was that we were in year two of Eamon’s three-year tenure and Eamon was sure that he wasn’t going ahead beyond that.
“In every county, particularly in Tipp, speculation can just run riot.
“The other thing was we felt we were on the right path - we weren’t up here and successful. We still had to work at it - but we absolutely felt we had a really good bunch of players and that we were on the right track and that we wanted continuity.”
All’s well that ends well? That’s not how Tipperary see this one.
The intention is that this is just a beginning.
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