Sheedy relishing task of guiding Tipp towards the top again
‘I wouldn’t have stepped back into this arena unless I felt I had the energy for it’
Tipperary Senior Hurling Open Training Session, Semple Stadium, Thurles, Co. Tipperary 31/7/2019 Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy speaks to fans Mandatory Credit ?INPHO/Tommy Dickson
If anyone doubted his capacity to successfully reassume the reins of the Tipperary senior hurlers, then Liam Sheedy didn’t share their concerns.
When listing off some of the things that have changed during his second act as Tipp manager, Sheedy stops short on his own energy and enthusiasm to pick up where he left off in 2010.
“There’s no point in getting involved with the team unless you believe you can do something,” said Sheedy, speaking at the Tipperary press event, ahead of the All-Ireland showdown against Kilkenny on Sunday week.
“And I wouldn’t have stepped back into this arena unless I felt I had the energy for it, and unless I felt I had the support of Bank of Ireland, and the support of my own family. I had all those boxes ticked, and that allowed me to go and give it my full commitment.
“But, to be honest, I haven’t ever felt as good and refreshed at being out on the field with the players on the Tuesday and the Thursday. And I’ve massive trust in everyone around me to do the job to the very best standard.”
If Tipperary are to win back the All-Ireland after three years then Sheedy clearly won’t be taking all the credit either. There was however the same expectation, especially after he unexpectedly stepped down from the position in the aftermath of the 2010 All-Ireland success over Kilkenny, halting the Cats’ famed “drive-for-five” in the process.
He also credits his role as a pundit with RTÉ’s The Sunday Game for keeping his eye and ear on the game.
“I really enjoyed my time in The Sunday Game analysing. It certainly hasn’t done me any harm in terms of staying close to the game, understanding the game and where it is moving. So I would say definitely, being involved as an analyst on The Sunday Game helped me in terms of getting back in.”
Still, whatever about F Scott Fitzgerald’s idea that there are no second acts in American lives, there is no shortage of them in senior hurling management; plenty of equally successful managers have tried it before and failed – Michael “Babs” Keating, Ger Loughnane, Eamonn Cregan, Michael Bond – either returning to their own county, or elsewhere.
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. Jimmy Barry-Murphy came unbelievably close, guiding Cork to the All-Ireland in 1999, and looked poised to win in his second term in 2013 – only for Clare to snatch a dramatic late equaliser in the drawn All-Ireland final. The Banner went on to win the replay.
Since that success in 2010, then the county’s first All-Ireland in nine years, they’ve landed just one more, in 2016, the open desire and determination to win back-to-back titles in 2017 falling just short when they lost to eventual champions Galway in the All-Ireland semi-final.
The least of Sheedy’s ambition was to improve on Tipperary’s dismal early exit in last summer’s round-robin series of the Munster hurling championship. It saw them finish the round-robin stages without a win (they drew with Cork and Waterford) from their four games, after which then manager Michael Ryan stepped down.
“What Tipp had to face last year versus how it was structured this year, I got the break, two matches, then a week off then another match then a week off. It really was much easier for me to time my run throughout the round-robin than it was last year with the four matches in a row. And I think it has been proven since, it’s impossible to play four matches in a row and still stay in the championship.
“The overall calendar needs further work. You’re flat out in the league and then you come straight out and into the championship. You lose your first match and you’re on the back foot straight away. You do need the get your full focus.
“I would have felt those few weeks before the Cork match were vital to us, really important. I have a really good working relationship with the board. It’s hard to get the balance right. There is more work and I don’t think the club and inter-county fixtures are synchronised yet.”