Tipperary manager, Liam Sheedy
Tipperary hit a low in the Munster final which sent the hurling market crashing as far as their stock was concerned, but no one in the camp lost confidence or belief in what might be achieved after that setback against then driving All-Ireland champions, Limerick.
Manager Liam Sheedy said he had seen too much of the group to know the Munster final form was a dip, not a disaster. Overall in Munster, Tipp had 300 very good minutes in the Round Robin series, he insisted.
“Obviously we fell flat in the final and were probably written off in some quarters on the back of that lacklustre performance,” he admitted as he outlined the hurling story as it appeared at the time.
“That thinking didn’t seep into the group. It didn’t seep into me. We retained a massive belief in what we could do. We went about our business again. We got a chance to regroup.
“We got a match in Croke Park and got through it. We have had two outings in Croke Park which from our perspective is pleasing to have gone up there.
“It has been a long season, but over the seven months I couldn’t have asked for more from the group. They have given me absolutely everything every night as has the team around them, the coaching staff and so on. They challenged the players night in, night out, week in, week out.
“Irrespective of what happens on August 18 I can look back and say these guys have given absolutely everything. They all come from proud clubs. They are very, very proud to represent their county.”
On Sunday in Croke Park, the beaten Munster and beaten Leinster (Kilkenny) finalists will have the All-Ireland final party to themselves, and Sheedy is thrilled by the prospects.
Sheedy, a former Tipperary intermediate and minor team manager (they won the All-Ireland in 2006), is in his second term as senior boss, having signed off his firm term with an All-Ireland victory over Kilkenny in 2010.
Before he became Tipp manager for the second time, his name was in the frame to be the new Director General of the GAA. Did he have regrets on that score?
Not in the least!
“To be honest, I don’t look back on life,” he replied when he took up the story. “I spend my life looking out through the front window of the car most of the time. There is a path laid out for us all. That path wasn’t for me.
“I certainly gave it everything but my outlook on life all the time is, what is for you won’t pass you by. Clearly that particular number wasn’t for me and this number was for me so whatever number I find myself in, whether it be in work or in sport, I’ll give it 100%. I have given this job 100%.”
He insisted he didn’t let stuff linger like that. He has a belief in himself and what he can do, and working with top class teams is where he found myself.
“I am loving it,” he added quickly. “My mother (Bid) was a huge influence on me over her lifetime, and thankfully she was around for 90 years. Her statement was, what is for you won’t pass you by.
“It’s something that has stuck with me so if it passes by me it wasn’t meant for me and you move on. I move on quickly. Look at where I find myself now and I am really enjoying where I am.”
He was looking forward to Sunday’s final against Kilkenny, a county that shared a lot of Tipperary’s beliefs in how and the way the game should be played.
He made the comment in the context of the way different styles of play are commented upon on the TV and in the media.
“I play with six backs,” he opened on the subject. “If I play with six backs, is that a sweeper? Everyone has their own style of play. You are trying to set up your team to give them the best chance of winning, and that is what we do every time we go out to play and that’s what every manager tries to do.
“It makes it a little big intriguing because on any given day you are facing off against a different type of pattern and set-up and you have got to be adaptable. We pride ourselves on our ability to adapt ourselves to any given situation, depending on how the opposition face off against us.”
He was absolutely sure that both (Kilkenny and Tipperary) camps will be delighted with where they find themselves.
“At the start of the year you want to be involved on All-Ireland final day,” he suggested. “The championship is a tough competition. This is game No. 8 for us. It is a long road. The last time if you won four matches you won the All-Ireland.
“It is a little bit different now. Yea, this is exactly where you want to be.”
He felt the two semi-finals were hugely exciting matches.
“Obviously for Kilkenny toppling the All-Ireland, League and Munster champions was a phenomenal performance,” he insisted. “I have huge admiration for their spirit, their style of play. They got off to a great start and never wilted. They deserve great credit for that.
“We had a job to do against Wexford. With 20 minutes to go it was looking that maybe it wasn’t going to be our day when we were five points down and a man down. The spirit and character we showed was something that was very pleasing for me as a manager. The way we reacted when the pressure was on was terrific.”
He insisted he didn’t turn that match. It was turned inside the white lines. That was what managers needed, leadership inside the white lines.
“When the ask is greatest and you respond that is most pleasing for a manager. That was certainly a serious ask. I am delighted we came up with the answers,” he said with excitement in his voice.
He felt when Tipp were in a dark place, the response from the players was exceptional. They found space. They executed passes to a much higher level than they had done in the first half.
They showed a lot more energy with 14 men than maybe at some stages in the first half when they were being over-run at times and it looked like all the space was being created by the Wexford midfielders and half-backs who were shooting forward in huge numbers.
“We could have been in real trouble if Wexford had taken some of those chances in the first half,” the former senior All-Ireland medal winner admitted. “We are under no illusions. It wasn’t a complete performance in the semi-final. There were aspects of our play in the first half that wouldn’t be at the level required to win the All-Ireland.
“Ultimately the last 20 minutes showed us the character of this team. That was probably the most pleasing aspect of it. All it has done is given us the right to play in the All-Ireland final.
"It is something we are really, really looking forward to.”
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.