Tipping point for Limerick after a lost decade
Underachieving Tipperary may have swapped places with their championship conquerors
They have failed to deliver on their talent to the extent that O’Shea must be wondering about the need for radical changes in personnel. The crisis is genuine. Declan Ryan’s management took a plausible if convenient hit for the underachievement of the past two years and O’Shea’s calm and cerebral prescriptions were widely seen within the county and elsewhere as the cure that would restore the team to its best. This hasn’t happened so where to now?
On Sunday you could see that the veterans, Eoin Kelly and Brendan Cummins, for all their pride are coming to the end of their lease whereas even a fully-fit Lar Corbett is more of an asset executing an ambush than resisting one. Another veteran John O’Brien was the only starting forward to score more than once from play whereas three other starters, Patrick Maher, Shane Bourke and Séamus Callanan didn’t manage even one.
Into this land of opportunity stepped John Allen. His declarations of confidence after the match weren’t spurious – he privately told one of the media beforehand he felt Limerick were going to win. His approach to team management, encouraging decision-making and engagement, could be seen in the response of his players to the moments of greatest challenge. Unlike Tipp, they neither appeared to believe the match was in the bag when they went a few points ahead nor, crucially, that it was irretrievable in adversity.
If management is about putting your team in the best position to succeed he did just that with his second-half replacements. One of those was Niall Moran. Despite being just 30 this year he, like Oisín i ndiaidh na Féinne, remains the only survivor of the generation that brought home those under-21 All-Irelands at the beginning of the last decade. Afterwards, in acknowledging the eternal truth of competitive sport, he paid tribute to his manager’s Zen-like composure.
“Ultimately, at the end of your career you are going to be judged by what you have won. Myself and Donal (O’Grady, centrefielder and captain) as older players have won nothing in our senior careers and the same goes for the younger guys. That has to be the focus and nobody better than John Allen to reinforce that.”