Eamon O’Shea’s Tipperary team return to Nowlan Park in Kilkenny on Sunday, February 23rd (throw-in 2pm) to face the defending league champions - Tipperary lost to Kilkenny twice in 2013 at Nowlan Park, games that O’Shea fondly remembers.
“Yeah, we are really looking forward to that,” Eamon O’Shea told the Tipperary Star on Saturday evening following his side’s three-point win over Waterford in the opening round of the Allianz National Hurling League at Semple Stadium, Thurles.
“The last time we were in Nowlan Park we had a fantastic game. I think people missed it in the excitement of the last year.
“That was one of the games I think I will remember even though we came out at the wrong side of it. It was a great battle. It’s a great occasion, fantastic. You knows it’s a provincial ground; there is great excitement and it’s very partisan and I hope it’s the same again. But it’s just another game; it’s just two points - I don’t think they give four points for beating Kilkenny.”
Eamon O’Shea revealed that Paddy Stapleton has a chance of recovering in time for the trip to Kilkenny, but the Kilruane MacDonagh’s man also insisted that he has ‘no ambitions for the league’.
“The two points that are beside us on the league table,” Eamon O’Shea said when asked what pleased him about Saturday night’s performance.
“I don’t know what date it is, but it’s February some time. We are five months away from our most serious game that we will have to play this year. We are building towards that. I have no ambitions for the league. The only important game for me, and I will spell it out, is Limerick.
“It’s (the league) about getting a rhythm, trying to get a rhythm, finding players and trying to give players an opportunity. That’s what we will do. I wouldn’t have huge ambitions for the league to be honest with you. We will try to win every game, obviously.”
Derek McGrath’s Waterford side made life more than difficult for Tipperary on Saturday night and could consider themselves misfortunate not to get something out of the game.
“It’s a good win at the end of the day,” Eamon O’Shea said.
“We didn’t play well and any time you play like that . . . many is the time that people say that Tipperary can’t win close games, but I’m happy to win that. It was the first game.
“We came off of a win last week and sometimes that’s not great for you because you are coming off a different competition. This is a step up again. We didn’t play well. They are the facts, but I thought that the team showed huge desire to win the game.
“Okay it was a fortuitous goal in the end that won the game and I felt sorry for Waterford in the sense that I thought they came here with a good plan and it was very competitive,” O’Shea added.
“I was very happy with the team and with the way that they tried to eek out a win there. That’s the most pleasing aspect of the game. I thought it was a very competitive game and it could have gone either way. Our lads are happy that they stayed working at the game. The most pleasing aspect of the day was that. The hurling will come; it’s just very early in the season.”
Tipperary struggled to find their way into the game in the opening half, but playing with the wind in the second half the Premier’s approach play improved with Séamus Callanan performing brilliantly on occasion.
“Séamus is always good. Séamus does not have to come good for me; Séamus is always good. In fairness he scored when we got better ball in to him,” Eamon O’Shea said as he considered a suggestion that Tipperary played with more ‘fluency’ in the second half.
“Yeah, it was a little bit better,” O’Shea told the Tipperary Star.
“I wouldn’t go overboard about the fluency in the second half, but it was a little bit better. In fairness we were getting them (the forwards) in better ball and once we got better ball in we did okay.
“Just to go back to the way they eeked out a win; these are players who are really trying hard and that’s all I would say. They are trying really hard and fair play to them.”
O’Shea also revealed that his players were encouraged to make switches on the field and seek out the solution to problems: “They have to work these things out. I’m not a great planner. I think the team deserves huge credit. I think most of the credit would go to the players for sorting it out. That’s the way it has to be and that’s the way it is now. They have to sort the thing out and they did it this time”.
Meanwhile Waterford manager Derek McGrath was happy to take what positives he could from a game which the Déise could have won.
“We were happy with the way they held up the ball early in the first half and getting runners on the shoulder. We were very happy with how they played, but the end product is something that we are looking to work on. If we see progress in every game and see a level of improvement along the way we will be happy enough,” Derek McGrath said.
“We had a focus on the game from a long way out. We really targeted the Waterford Crystal Cup, but it went horribly wrong for us. We didn’t have the level of competitive games that Tipp had coming into it. We came in under the radar in the sense that Tipp had won the Waterford Crystal fairly convincingly, but I was delighted with our intensity, with our work rate, with our tackling and with our level of togetherness.”
SENIOR HURLING PANEL
Tipperary senior hurling panel for the Allianz Hurling League group stages - Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), James Barry (Upperchurch-Drombane), Kieran Bergin (Killenaule), Michael Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields), Séamus Callanan (Drom & Inch), Lar Corbett (Thurles Sarsfields), Darragh Egan (Kildangan), Darren Gleeson (Portroe), Tomás Hamill (Killea), Eoin Kelly (Mullinahone), Conor Kenny (Borris-Ileigh), Brendan Maher (Borris-Ileigh, captain), Denis Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Pádraic Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Patrick Maher (Lorrha-Dorrha), Ronan Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), Noel McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Shane McGrath (Ballinahinch), Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Paddy Murphy (Nenagh Éire Óg), Conor O’Brien (Éire Óg Annacarty), John O’Dwyer (Killenaule), Conor O’Mahony (Newport), Jason Forde (Silvermines), Paddy Stapleton (Borris-Ileigh), James Woodlock (Drom & Inch).