Collective power gets Tipp over the line, says Liam Sheedy
Manager vindicated in his return to the fold as blue and gold claim the Liam MacCarthy
Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy lifts the Liam McCarthy trophy with members of the backroom staff after beating Kilkenny at Croke Park. Photo: Tommy Dickson/Inpho
In the last moment before the throw-in, the Tipperary players gathered for one more huddle, listening intently as the man among them shook his right arm, thumb and forefinger clenched together, as if to emphasise the collective, the collective, the collective...
Only it wasn’t Liam Sheedy, it was Eamon O’Shea.
For as long as their All-Ireland winning moment lasted and will last, this message will be the same. The collective, the collective, the collective...
It’s what the Second Coming of Liam Sheedy came back for, Tipperary completing the decade with a third All-Ireland hurling title, for the first time since the 1960s. That it began under Sheedy in 2010 may be telling and lasting too, only he was never going to win it back unless everyone bought into his message.
“A lot of you would have sat in front of me, when I started out on this journey, and talking about the risk in coming back,” he said, laying out that message in front of us.
“I committed to giving this group and this team 100 per cent, and what I got in return was 100 per cent back. Whether we won or whether we lost, we had given everything we possibly could. I stood there at half three today knowing I had done everything I possibly could to get that team in the best shape of their lives.
“That was their work and the way they responded and thankfully we sit here at the end of 2019 as All-Ireland champions, so it’s very pleasing from that perspective. This journey was never about me, it’s all about the team and the backroom team we put around them. Eamon O’Shea, Tommy Dunne and Darragh Egan are just unbelievable men – all three.”
Whatever about F Scott Fitzgerald’s idea that there are no second acts in American lives, there is no shortage of them in GAA management, yet Sheedy now joins a select group: The last hurling manager to realise such a successful return was Cyril Farrell, who managed Galway to the 1980 All-Ireland, took a breather, then came back and won two more in 1987 and 1988.
“Ultimately, this journey was never about me,” added Sheedy. “This is about this group of players and all of the credit this evening should go to this group of players because the way that they have gone about their business in the most professional manner, night in, night out, since November, is incredible, is incredible, and I’m just absolutely thrilled to be a part of that.
“For long periods of that first half we were gasping for air, to be honest with you. We needed a goal when we got it, an individual piece of brilliance by Niall O’Meara, and a great finish because Eoin Murphy is a hard man to pass.
“Obviously at half-time we probably felt we didn’t find our flow in that first half, never got to the pitch of it. We spoke about what we wanted to achieve in the second half and the level of performance we wanted to find. That’s such an honest group and they self-correct. Honestly, I had to say very little. This all comes from inside the white lines, this all comes from this wonderful group of players – they show maturity way beyond their years.
“Some of the ball, we did not use the ball well for periods in that second half and we were very disappointed with that, myself and Eamon (O’Shea) were losing a bit of our grey hair on the sideline at times. But ultimately when they did move it and move it well they were exceptional. So just thrilled.”
That same message came from the players: they were nothing without the winning collective and nor were the management team. “Just Liam returning is no good,” said John “Bubbles” O’Dwyer, who enjoyed a sort of Second Coming of his own, scoring 1-2 from play.
“He’s only as good as his backroom team. He came back with a backroom team that was different class. He got the people that he wanted. Without them, Liam was no good and he’d tell you that himself.
“Just the whole professionalism and the way they go about their business. Our strength and conditioning , our nutritionist, our coaches, everything that you look for is given to you on a plate. You know there was no stone left unturned and we got our just reward at the end of the day.
“Liam also told me a few home truths at the start of the year and I worked a lot with the S&C. It was just about getting that base fitness, that was basically it. It’s not just a personal thing, the team as a whole, we all did it together. We went through thick and thin together and that was the most pleasing part. Personally, it’s good to win, to play but there’s 39 other players in the squad. Just collectively it’s brilliant for us.”
The message too from Brendan Maher, who watched last year’s All-Ireland final on his couch at home while recovering from a torn cruciate ligament: “The management made our job very easy, just gave us the platform. Everything we looked for we got, and more,” he said
For Sheedy that winning collective of a third All-Ireland this decade wasn’t unnoticed either.
“That means something because I think this team has had more people saying what they weren’t winning over the last 10 years than what they were. And when people look back on this decade they’ll see a Tipperary team that won (three).
“We all sat and we honoured the previous captains of teams in Tipperary, but we have a wonderful group of players who have taken to the pitch in this decade and I’m delighted to see that group of players rewarded with another All-Ireland because maybe instead of going back to the 1960s all the time, maybe we should talk about this decade.
“Because I think at the moment in this Tipperary squad, we have some of the best players ever to wear that blue and gold jersey and that’s what makes me honoured and privileged to get the chance to work with them.”
The collective, the collective, the collective.