O'Shea to blend young and old
RARELY HAS an intercounty appointment been greeted with such unanimous approval, at least locally, although Eamon O’Shea has played down expectations of an immediate return to the top for Tipperary hurling.
With the possible exception of Liam Sheedy himself, who managed Tipperary to their All-Ireland success in 2010, O’Shea is being hailed as the right man, at the right time. He worked alongside Sheedy as Tipp coach from 2008 to 2010 and was seen as playing a crucial role in developing the tactics and style of play which resulted in Tipperary outgunning Kilkenny in the 2010 All-Ireland final.
Declan Ryan enjoyed a reasonably smooth transition when taking over last year, losing the 2011 All-Ireland final to Kilkenny 2-17 to 1-16, but the county endured a setback last month, losing the All-Ireland semi-final to the same opposition, 4-24 to 1-15.
While suggesting Tipperary haven’t fallen that far back, O’Shea has admitted there is work to be done before they can consider themselves contenders again. That will mean blending new talent with the old – and he won’t be cleaning the slate – while realising the team must first go through a transition process.
“We’re not going to rush into it,” said O’Shea, speaking on Tipp FM in what was his only interview before confirming his backroom team. “These players have been hurling into late August and September for the last five years.
“So we’re starting from a good base, and I’m optimistic about the next year. It’s right to have expectations, but they need to be tempered. But the first challenge is to get back to the top two. We’re in the top four, so we’re not that far away. These players have had a lot of success, even in the last two years they have been Munster champions.”
The head of Economics at NUI Galway, O’Shea stepped down with Sheedy in 2010, along with selector Michael Ryan. Once Declan Ryan indicated his intention not to seek another term, O’Shea was mooted as a replacement, and although the initial indications were he too would decline, this changed over the weekend, his appointment was then rubber-stamped on Tuesday night.
“This only came to fruition over the weekend so it’ll be over the next month I’ll be putting the backroom team together,” he said.
“We’ll be getting the panel together by late October and early November. I was at the (county quarter-finals) games over the weekend and I’m looking forward to going to the semi-finals and finals. We will be looking at new players, but there’s a lot of good ones in Tipperary. By January we will be properly up and running.”
The nature and scale of the defeat to Kilkenny prompted talk of retirements, particularly the likes of Brendan Cummins, Eoin Kelly, Paul Curran, and indeed Lar Corbett, who overturned a decision to retire earlier this year, but failed to spark in the championship.
“I’m not certain about retirements,” said O’Shea. “Tipperary do need senior players over the next two or three years to help transition . . . I would hope we have a strong mix of young and old. Players have to take ownership.
“It is their team and up to them to make the team successful. I want us to have the traditional Tipperary style of grit along with the more modern approaches to the game.”
Tipperary have also agreed Peter Creedon be given the senior football manager’s position on a long-term basis, having stepped in temporarily this summer following the resignation of John Evans – although they are seeking a new minor football manager as David Power has stepped down after four years in charge.
Kerry would no doubt have unanimously approved Séamus Moynihan as a selector under new football manager Eamon Fitzmaurice, but he has declined an offer to join the backroom team.
It means Fitzmaurice’s backroom team will most likely consist of former players Mikey Sheehy and Diarmuid Murphy, pending confirmation at the next county committee meeting on October 15th.
It’s still unclear if former Mayo trainer Cian O’Neill will join up with Fitzmaurice too, although he has ruled himself out of any further role with Mayo, citing the long return drive from his Limerick base to Castlebar, which had been causing him back problems.
In the meantime Kerry are also poised to appoint former Clarecastle player and Clare underage star Tom Howard as their hurling manager, to succeed John Meyler.