Three-week break ideal, says Tipperary boss Eamon O’Shea
Team captain Brendan Maher and Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher expected to be fit for final
Tipperary boss Eamon O’Shea. “People didn’t really give us a chance. We’re delighted that we got the draw, but we always had a really strong belief in ourselves. And I always believe in my team, absolutely.” Photo: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Time flies when you’re preparing for an All-Ireland replay, and Tipperary hurling manager Eamon O’Shea is finding three weeks just about long enough. Any sooner and both teams might still be behind time.
Indeed Saturday’s hurling replay against Kilkenny at Croke Park – coming exactly 20 days after their drawn final earlier this month – is “ideal” timing, according to O’Shea, particularly if the second game is to reach the same high standard as the first.
There were some calls to stage the replay the following Saturday evening, with Cork hurling manager Jimmy Barry-Murphy suggesting he found the three-week break before last year’s replay against Clare “too long”. O’Shea, however, has no complaints.
“I would say if the replay was played the weekend after, then both teams would have been very tired,” he says. “I really think so. Because the All-Ireland Final is such a big day in the players’ life, and they really do have to come back down from it a bit.
“I can’t speak from huge experience about having three weeks to prepare again, but it’s been ideal, really, in that the first week was about recovery. The second week was about getting a bit more work done. And this week is about tapering again.”
Then there is the small matter of trying to improve on near perfection. The drawn final was instantly hailed as a modern classic – Tipperary’s 1-28 to Kilkenny’s 3-22 the highest-scoring (70-minute) All-Ireland hurling final in championship history. It was also the first time in championship history that neither team’s total score of 31 points was enough to win.
O’Shea admits he hasn’t yet watched the drawn game in its entirety, but rather reviewed certain periods, repeatedly. Nor is he getting hung up on the word “improvement”. Instead, and partly because of his profession as a lecturer in economics at NUI Galway, he prefers to use the word “adjustment”.
“In economics there is a term called ‘ceteris paribus’, where everything is held constant. But nothing stays constant in this game. Everything changes. Every game is going to be different. Even though it will be against the same opposition, there will be different circumstances, different conditions, different everything.
The three-week break before Saturday’s game (5.0 throw-in) is also providing additional time for a couple of Tipperary players to overcome minor injuries. Team captain Brendan Maher has been nursing a calf muscle strain, while Patrick “Bonner” Maher has been carrying a quad muscle injury for the last number of weeks. Their replay preparations have been limited, but not to the extent that either player will miss out.
O’Shea is also finding his team’s self-belief every bit as strong as it was going into the drawn game, not that he’s being fooled either by the fact they’re suddenly being giving credit for a performance not many others say coming.
“People didn’t really give us a chance. We’re delighted that we got the draw, but we always had a really strong belief in ourselves. And I always believe in my team, absolutely.
“So I don’t think it’s a question of debit or credit. The way I look at the game is that we went up to win it. And we didn’t win it. Just like the opposition went up to win it and didn’t win it. Ultimately this is what you’re in the game for, to win the All-Ireland. Really, the credit and debit can be added up at the end of the year. And we’re not at the end of the year yet.”