“These guys are honourable men who went to fight today.”
“We just lost a game by three points, yeah. We didn’t lose what’s in Tipperary.”
Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea encouraging his team against Cork. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho.
Spine-tingling, spellbinding words were cast from beneath the Nowlan Park stand late on Saturday. You will be doing well to read better utterances in this year’s hurling championship than what Eamon O’Shea relayed outside an eerily silent Tipperary changing room.
Not even Bruce Springsteen – due in the stadium this month – could beat the rhythm of these lyrics.
“The view that Tipperary are not able to put up a fight, I would challenge that. Tipperary came down to try to win a game, those boys were trying to win a game. I’m immensely proud of the way they went about their business.”
As he spoke O’Shea took time to stare into each reporter’s eyes. There was anguish in those lamps but no anger. There was kindness too, but most of all resilience.
“These guys are honourable men who went to fight today. They came out on the wrong side of the fight, but these are men of honour. These will be men of honour in the future and any criticism these guys get is undeserved because these guys have put in a huge effort for Tipperary, a massive effort, yeah.”
The “yeah” punctuating sentences was like a slow drum beat, increasing in tempo: “Whatever happens, yeah, we just lost a game by three points, yeah. We didn’t lose what’s in Tipperary. This team, a lot of them, with the guys coming behind them, will be back in the next couple of years. That I’m certain of, that I’m certain of.”
When O’Shea was asked if criticism hurts, he laughed a crazed laugh of the gallows.
“Nothing hurts me, yeah. I don’t get hurt, yeah, about criticism. I think my players are outstanding – that’s what I think. I don’t get hurt by criticism, yeah, I would defend my players for what they bring, for what I see every night in training, yeah, and these men fight and they fight. They fought today and it turns out a different result, but they fought.
Criticism doesn’t bother me. At the end of my life, that doesn’t bother me. It might have 30 years ago, but as you get older these things just don’t matter.”
Retirements are suggested. The link to the 2001. Brendan Cummins will be 39. Eoin Kelly 32. Lar Corbett, who was Icarus on Saturday night, is 33 in March.
“No, I don’t know. I don’t know. I can’t think, let alone think about retirements. When you lose a game like that you can’t think. There’s no word on anything. This has to settle down. I am proud of the players and proud of the way they came out.”
Afterwards he shook the hand of any man who offered theirs. A good few were compelled to do so. It was the honestly of the man. At the lowest ebb, O’Shea’s unbroken belief that Tipp hurling will rise again was inspirational.