Tom Ryan questions Tipp’s attitude to Munster SHC after Limerick loss

'Tipp didn’t want to know about it, their heads and their bodies weren’t there'

Tipperary’s John McGrath, Ronan Maher and Alan Flynn leave the pitch after the defeat to Limerick in the Munster SHC semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

Tipperary’s John McGrath, Ronan Maher and Alan Flynn leave the pitch after the defeat to Limerick in the Munster SHC semi-final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

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Tom Ryan has been talking on the phone for the guts of an hour when he realises he’s travelled a full circle and arrived back at his starting point; Limerick for the All-Ireland.

“I’m telling you, get your money on,” he smiles, describing the current Limerick team as better in almost every way than the 2018 MacCarthy Cup-winning model.

Ryan took Limerick to two All-Ireland finals, in 1994 and 1996, and while he’s a happy man now after another successful Munster championship outing, he’s frustrated too. With Tipperary.

“Tipp didn’t want to know about it, their heads and their bodies weren’t there, everything we know about Tipp was missing,” said Ryan of Limerick’s comprehensive Munster semi-final win.

“This current Tipperary team under Liam Sheedy has shown very little regard for the Munster championship, their performance was just diabolical, compared to what we expect of them. They were outplayed in every aspect of the game. To be beaten by the amount they were beaten by . . . like, take the dubious [John McGrath] goal out of it and you have a washout really. What were they at?

“They’re in the same boat now as last year when they were badly beaten in the Munster final. To me, it’s not good enough. I was absolutely shocked because they have hurlers that we’ve come to admire for their skill factor and their hunger but there wasn’t a screed of it to be seen, Limerick dominated the situation from start to finish.”

Tipp’s bye into round two of the All-Ireland qualifiers means they’ll only have to win one extra game to arrive at the same All-Ireland semi-final stage as Limerick, presuming the Shannonsiders retain the Munster title.

Gathering up your chips and shoving them towards the qualifiers is a risky gamble though and hardly something the Tipp players consciously opted to do?

Limerick’s Aaron Gillane scores a penalty during the Munster SHC semi-final against Tipperary at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho
Limerick’s Aaron Gillane scores a penalty during the Munster SHC semi-final against Tipperary at Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Photograph: Ryan Byrne/Inpho

“Look, I have tremendous respect for anyone that goes out in a county jersey, particularly at the moment, hurling or football, it’s an amateur game and those Tipp players don’t owe anyone anything but this is supposed to be Championship hurling,” said Ryan. “You can only judge it on what you’re seeing with your own eyes.

“For Limerick to dominate that game as they did . . . like, I’ll give you an example, Gearóid Hegarty strolls through in the first half with nobody near him, like he’s out for a walk and he strokes it over the bar. Not a hurl nor a Tipp jersey to be seen, and that wasn’t a one-off.

“I was chatting with a Clare man on Sunday night and he said to me, ‘Did you ever see the likes of it?’

“It reminded me of a great comment I once heard from a hurling man talking about golf, ‘It’s very easy to hit a ball when there’s nobody marking you!’”

Ryan believes part of the reason for Limerick’s dominance not just against Tipp but against Clare previously too, in a game that doubled as the Allianz League final, is their new-found Kilkenny-esque standing in the game.

“Kilkenny at their peak were winning games as soon as they togged out, before the ball was even thrown in,” said Ryan. “It’s been very evident in the two games Limerick have played so far that this is what’s happening now with Limerick. Clare and Tipperary showed they were overawed by Limerick.

“They made Clare look a very simple, disorganised team. I fancied them to beat Tipperary but I had it in my head that Tipp would burst a blood vessel to stop them and they didn’t. Limerick have reached a situation where half of the teams are almost half afraid to play them.

“That fear factor now is built in with Limerick and as well as that they’re improving all the time too. There was no Shane Dowling on Sunday, no Richie English, no Mike Casey, three top-class hurlers but they had fellas to fill in no bother. They brought on four strong subs, nearly all of them scored. The only one that found it difficult at all was young Nash and he was perhaps a victim of the system they’re playing where lads can get caught in possession.”

The weight of the ball – Ryan feels it’s too light and contributing to higher scoring – apparent stricter refereeing, modern pundits and their use of rugby terms like ‘line breaks’ and ‘pods’ and hurling artists being straitjacketed by systems and styles all come in for the Ryan analysis too. But the chat always ends back up at Limerick.

“You’d have to say at the moment they’re warm favourites for the All-Ireland,” he says and you couldn’t disagree.

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