In the aftermath of Tipperary’s 2-18 to 1-11 win over Cork at Croke Park on Sunday afternoon manager Eamon O’Shea heralded the character of his team.
“We are very happy with the performance in terms of where we came from,” Eamon O’Shea explained to the press corps.
“These guys are very calm about what they do; they don’t pay much attention to what is being said about them or written about them. We try to get a calmness around us and a solidity around us and to be something. That’s all we want to be: to be something. They really decided that they wanted to be solid and I think what you saw today was that solidity.
“I think that when people are assessing Tipperary the word I see sometimes being used is ‘flair’. When I assess Tipperary I see character first because you can’t have flair without character. I think this team is really strong in terms of their character. That’s just the way it has to be. You can’t get into an All-Ireland final unless the team has bundles of it. That’s just the way it is,” Eamon O’Shea said.
An outstanding aptitude for work, a determination to control the room into which Cork could hurl and an exhibition in terms of restarts were key facets to a fine Tipperary performance. Eamon O’Shea, however, refused to describe the display exceptional.
“It’s hard to make that assessment,” Eamon O’Shea insisted.
“I thought it was a very workmanlike display. I was really happy with the character. They got about their business and they decided that they were not going to let it be a shootout. And, I think they worked accordingly. I was very proud of the way that they approached the game. They decide what is supposed to happen on the pitch. They decided today that they were not going to let an opportunity like this pass by.”
“They are not happy. I am not happy and they know that I am not happy. Primarily, they are not happy,” Eamon O’Shea added.
“It was very hard. They had a sweeper all during the game and it’s very hard to play against that kind of system and get the breaks.”
Reacting to the performance of Tipperary goalkeeper Darren Gleeson and his exceptional ability to find his man in the Croke Park cauldron Dónal Óg Cusack described it as the greatest exhibition of puck-outs ever seen on The Sunday Game.
“We worked incredibly hard (on puck-outs),” Eamon O’Shea said.
“Those that are in Tipperary know that the man is really good on puck-outs and really good on accuracy. I think he brought his A game to the pitch today and I think the players worked really hard on puck-outs. When the opposition play an extra man back at six, which they (Cork) do, they are pockets to be hit and you have to have the courage to hit them. I think he was outstanding today. I think he really came of age today in terms of the goals for Tipp.”
Eamon O’Shea reserved a special word of praise for Lorrha-Dorrha stalwart Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher. The Tipperary star suffered a rib injury as early as the opening ten minutes, but played on heroically.
“Bonner was extraordinary today and the reason that he was extraordinary was that he was injured early on in the game,” Eamon O’Shea explained.
“He played with a lot of pain. In fact we could have taken him off earlier, but every time we wanted to take him off he was showing for another ball. I mean the man is just extraordinary as an athlete. He’s a phenomenal player and a real example to the way that the game should be played.”
With 2-3 from play Séamus Callanan was in extraordinary form in Croke Park - two blistering goals set Tipperary on their way to a famous win.
“It looked like one off his right and one off his left,” Eamon O’Shea said with a smile.
“He has been working hard. We played an A v B game last week and if I was to tell you the score after ten minutes you would not believe me. No, I’m not going to tell you. You could tell that the A team were on their game. All we had to do during the week was keep it ticking over. That’s the way it is in hurling.
“They (the players) are trying to achieve. It’s their victory. They are working really hard. Somebody asked me out there when was the turning point. I could point back to a turning point in Salthill back in March (National Hurling League). We were getting beaten with the wind. We resolved at half-time that whatever happened in the second half that we would come out and win the second half. We did. Galway got three points against the wind in Pearse Stadium. Little things like that you put in the memory bank. We may have been nearly out, but we stayed at it. They got the fruits of that today and I am delighted for them. They have worked really hard.”
Holycross-Ballycahill’s Cathal Barrett was handed the task of marking Pat Horgan on Sunday, Cork’s star forward who was in the form of his life. Barrett took on that responsibility and excelled.
“Cathal is a great prospect and I think he has a long career ahead of him with Tipperary. I think that today was a good stepping stone to achieving that,” Eamon O’Shea revealed.
“I thought the backs as a unit really played well. I thought the goalkeeper was really outstanding in terms of controlling the game. I thought our midfield was excellent. So, I thought there was a good platform there. In fairness to the forwards I thought they worked really hard when they hadn’t the ball. I think you saw Séamus Callanan coming there a few times in an effort to stop the ball being cleared. These are things that the lads decided themselves that they wanted to do and it was how they wanted to play.
“I think it was a credit to them. I just told them that they should be proud of what they have done in terms of the way in which they have delivered what they wanted to do themselves. We just provide a framework for them and I am just really happy for them.”
Outstanding Tipperary defender Michael Cahill, who has recovered from injury in recent weeks, missed out on a starting spot, but was introduced in place of Shane McGrath in the 65th minute. Was it difficult for Eamon O’Shea to leave out such an accomplished player?
“Yeah, he was coming back to fitness and in fairness to the players that were there you have to see what the players are producing. You just have to make these calls. They are not easy to make. You just make a judgement and you live and die by that judgement,” Eamon O’Shea admitted.
“Mickey (Cahill) is outstanding and he worked really hard for the last week and in probably the last week he started to get back to a level of match fitness. He didn’t even have a full match behind him. It’s not difficult when your players are playing really well. It’s game on for the next day again. It’s game on for the fifteen and it’s game on for the twenty-six. That’s the way it has to be and they know that. They don’t like you for it, but they know that it has to be like that.”
The final between Kilkenny and Tipperary will pit two teams full of character against one another. And, Eamon O’Shea expects his players to meet that challenge head on.
“We have met it before head on,” Eamon O’Shea insisted.
“The results might not have gone our way. I think you just have to take the game on its merits, don’t look to the past and don’t look to the future. It will be on the seventh of September and take it for what it is.
“It’s an opportunity for two really good teams. Let’s see. Let’s go hammer and tongs and let’s see who wins it. Every year throws up something different. Last year was tremendous in the way in the way in which it threw up a different All-Ireland final. The way I look at this is that it is just two teams having a go. Let’s see what happens. Every year throws up something different. Our lads were determined from when we first met that if there was going to be something different this year then it was going to be Tipp.”