There was no lilting rhetoric from the Tipperary camp in the wake of the seventeen-point win over Offaly at O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on Saturday evening. Tipperary still have a lot of work to do to become viable All-Ireland contenders. And, that was the point which manager Eamon O’Shea was eager to emphasise.
“We have never lost focus in terms of what we have to do here. We know where we stand in the pecking order. That’s the point that I want to make. We are not delusional. We know where we are,” Eamon O’Shea told the Tipperary Star.
“We are in the top six now, but there are teams in there that are better than us so far in terms of the championship. We have a level to come up. We know that we have to get to that level. The teams that are left in it are Munster champions, Leinster champions and teams that have been in the All-Ireland semi-finals last year. Really it’s a case of us knowing where we are and trying to achieve the next level. That’s how I see things. I see things very simply. Happy to be there, but I think we have a bit of work to do.”
Good, sensible stuff from the Kilruane MacDonagh’s man.
“They did turn off for bits and pieces,” Eamon O’Shea said as he reflected on periods of the contest which were dominated by Brian Whelehan’s Offaly team.
“If you are looking for something that we want to improve on that would be it. They (Offaly) were formidable at times in coming back to us. The lesson we have to learn is that when you are in a high intensity game like this and you turn off the opposition will hurt you. They did that, but the pleasing thing was that in the middle of the second half, when we were under a bit of pressure, they did respond and they did score three or four points on the trot without us having to put in a substitute. And, the people we did put in I thought all handled themselves very well which is also very pleasing.”
After ninety seconds Tipperary led 2-0 to no-score. The Premier relaxed a little thereafter, but picked up their level of performance and led 4-9 to 0-11 at the interval. Such lapses of concentration are an area for concern.
“If goals go in like that at an early stage of a game the mental thing is that some people might say okay we can relax now, we have a six-point cushion. I would say that certainly did impact on our team,” Eamon O’Shea explained.
“You can’t allow that to happen - if you want to go far in this competition that’s dangerous. It is obviously good that they did do that (turn it around), but there is no guarantee on any given day that the turn on switch will be found when you want it. One of the things about this level is that I don’t think you can afford to turn off like that. Sometimes when you turn on it’s too late, but having said that I think they do know inside there that they need to improve.
“We are not happy. I don’t mean that in terms of any disrespect to winning the game, but we are not happy with our own level here. Offaly brought something to the game and I think that should be acknowledged. They fought and they were well organised. The win didn’t reflect the game; it was certainly closer to a seven, eight or nine-point game in my view.”
Once more the star of Séamus Callanan shone brightly. The Drom & Inch man notched 2-3 from play, worked hard and led the line in devastating fashion.
“He has been consistent, but he is the last man in there. That is what he is supposed to do. I wouldn’t be running away with myself. He knows what is expected. He is in there to do something and fair play to him he is doing it. What’s more is that I think he brought a few more players into the play and varied his play which is really important for him. He’s developing into a really good player, but he has a bit to do,” Eamon O’Shea said before highlighting the impact made by the Tipperary substitutes.
“I was delighted for the lads (substitutes). It is very hard when you are working as hard as everybody else and you are not getting on the pitch. It’s easier to come in (training) when you have contributed something to the team,” Eamon O’Shea added.
“The big thing about them is that they all want to make a contribution. When they talk to me they don’t talk to me about why they are not on. What they say to me is that they want to make a contribution. It is a real credit to them that they would talk to me like that. I am delighted for some of them to be honest.”
Although Séamus Callanan proved the star turn for Tipperary on Saturday the form of several other players, most notably Noel McGrath, Pádraic Maher, man of the match Patrick Maher and Killenaule’s Kieran Bergin caught the eye.
“Yeah, I thought Kieran was good,” Eamon O’Shea said.
“I thought Woodie (James Woodlock) worked hard too for the time that he was in there. I thought Shane (McGrath), when he came on, delivered the ball very quickly. We had three very good midfielders there and we have got Ronan (Maher) as well off the bench when he is ready again.
“I am delighted with him (Kieran Bergin). He has worked really hard since the Limerick game to reach the levels that he wouldn’t have been happy with himself about. He would be the first to say it to me. He wants to achieve and he is highly-motivated. He is twenty-seven or twenty-eight and he is making up for lost time. When you get to that age time is not your friend,” Eamon O’Shea said.
“We got off to a very sloppy start,” a downbeat Offaly manager Brian Whelehan said as he considered a heavy defeat for the Faithful.
“They got off to a good start and we hurled our way back into it. I think that goal just before half-time was a real killer, but in fairness to the lads they regrouped and responded well. They came out fighting hard in the second half and brought it back to four points,” Brian Whelehan said.
“I felt at that stage that there was a decision or two that could have gone our way as well which would have brought it a lot closer and asked that question. Unfortunately, it didn’t happen. Tipp managed to keep the scoreboard ticking over at that stage and opened a bit of a gap. I don’t think that goal in the end reflected in the second half how our defence had hurled. I am immensely proud of how our lads kept going until the end,” Brian Whelehan told the press corps.
“Whether I am there or not next year has to be decided upon, but we have learned a lot. We have learned a lot about the players and different things. We have to make huge inroads into the way we develop our younger players. We have to look to the future,” the Birr man explained.
“Offaly are in a tough spot at the minute. This has been a tough year, but at the same time we know there are good hurlers in Offaly. We just have to get a bit more confidence into them and if we can do that then we will make progress.
“I am an Offaly man and to train your county team is the highest honour in your county. If I am asked to take up that mantle again next year I would love to get another chance. This year has been a baptism of fire from a player point of view and a management point of view. We have to plan out a lot better for next year, but we have learned a lot this year.”