Tipp fans fearful of Cody factor as All-Ireland enthusiasm mounts
Excitement grows in country ahead of hurling final meeting with Kilkenny on Sunday
Owners of “A Sportsman’s Dream” and ardent Tipp fans Deirdre Hughes and Siobhán Tynan, alongside local woman Helen Leo.
In 2010, Eoin Kelly, captain of Tipperary lifted the Liam McCarthy Cup in the All Ireland Hurling Final after his side’s victory over Kilkenny. Photograph: Alan Betson/THE IRISH TIMES
The last time Liam Sheedy and Brian Cody encountered one another as managers in an All-Ireland Final, Ireland was in a state of financial ruin. Unemployment was rampant, particularly in rural counties like Tipperary, where emigration was ravaging the countryside of crucial hurling talent.
Nine years on, Nenagh still bears some of the scars inflicted by the downturn, but the town is now in a far better place.
The enthusiasm for hurling and camogie never wanes in this part of the world, regardless of economic circumstances, and the atmosphere has been building since that epic semi-final win over Wexford.
Philip Ryan - owner of Philip’s Furniture on Nenagh’s Main Street - has unerring faith in this Tipperary team, refusing to doubt their ability even when the prospects looked grim. According to him, the Munster final loss to Limerick was irrelevant; Tipp had their eyes on a bigger prize.
Philip has kindly decided to offer Brian Cody one of his finest products, to commiserate him on Sunday’s (expected) defeat. “If he loses this match (please God), I’m going to present him with a double bed, and he can dream on for the rest of the year!”
There was a palpable air of excitement across the county when Liam Sheedy was appointed for his second stint as manager last October. Behind all the flags, festivities and anticipation, however, supporters across the county are pondering on what will actually happen this Sunday.
Most are confident, but there is an underlying feeling of suspicion - the type Brian Cody tends to generate. What kind of strategy will the 11-time All-Ireland winning manager employ? - shares this suspicion.
“It’s hard to know what kind of game-plan Cody will bring to the game, he doesn’t really like to play sweepers, but I think he’ll try to crowd out the centre, he’ll bring out the half-forwards and bottle up the play in the middle of the field,” says Jimmy Dunne, from Lorrha, the most northerly parish in the county.
Located just outside Nenagh, the little parish of Portroe seems like the centre of the hurling universe these days. Home to Liam Sheedy, the club has experienced a remarkable evolution over the past decade, rising up the ranks to win a north Tipperary senior title in 2012 - no guessing who the manager was. Labour Party TD Alan Kelly is a native of Portroe, and knows that the entire community is hopping with excitement and pride.
“We’ve had a fantastic week leading up to it. Obviously, there are so many connections to Portroe. We have Liam Sheedy, somebody we’re very proud of in the parish; Robert Byrne, who’s on the panel; and indeed John Sheedy (Liam’s brother) who’s in the background in the Tipp set-up; and even Darren Gleeson who’s also the goalkeeping coach. I’d say Portroe will be depopulated on Sunday, and if we do win it, we’ll have a great day in Portroe next Wednesday, and hopefully we’ll see the biggest crowd that ever walked up the hill of Port all walking up together.”