Winning a Munster hurling title is an accomplishment. Retaining it, more so, but to retain it while having to field a completely new side considerably endorses the work of the management team, in this case, Tipperary intermediate hurling manager, Fethard’s Michael Ryan and his colleagues, coach Michael Ferncombe(Holycross), Eamon O Dwyer(Arravale Rovers), and Sean O Meara (Shannon Rovers).
Last year’s all-Ireland victory over Kilkenny was widely acclaimed in the Premier County but on Friday evening last, the backroom team underlined their talent for the job when, obliged by rule to field a new selection, they saw off the challenge of championship specialists Cork by the slenderest of margins, 0-19 to 0-18.
Tipperary fielded a selection with a view to grooming talent for the senior team, and while , with the exception of goalkeeper Darragh Egan, there was no stand-out performances, there was a determination and resilience in the side that was admirable, as was borne out by their refusal to wilt when the Cork pressure came on in earnest in the hectic closing stages.
This was Tipperary’s first time putting Munster titles back-to-back in this grade, and it was Tipperary’s ninth success, four less than Cork in the honours list, but Manager Michael Ryan would not be drawn on whether he considered this year’s team stronger than last year’s.
“I wouldn’t be making comparisons between the teams but what I will say is that this bunch of players have given us everything and have done everything that has been asked of them”, he said after the game.
He did concede that his charges are capable of better than they showed against Cork.
“We did not play anywhere near what we are capable of, but having said that, Cork were a very big team who used their physique well.
“Their long puck outs put our defence under fierce pressure but I suppose we got a rub of the green. Cork had a chance to level the game at the end but they went for the juggler, and we managed to survive”, he added.
A key factor in the Tippeary win was the introduction of four substitutes for the closing minutes. The manager explained – “Danny O Hanlon’s hamstring was beginning to tighten up and Thomas Butler was only back a short time after injury.
“We felt we needed fresh legs and we are fortunate that we have players on the bench capable of giving us a lift when we need it”, he said.
Tipperary now face into the All-Ireland with Galway and Kilkenny in their sights. It is not going to be easy, but, as against Limerick in the first round, and Cork last week, this side, led by former senior David Young of Toomevara, have shown that they have “the bottle” for a contest. Having brought Tipperary their first silverware of the season, they are well capable of adding further to the trophy cabinet.