Manager Eamon O’Shea never doubted for a second that Saturday night’s All-Ireland hurling qualifier was slipping away from Tipperary even though Galway led by six points (1-15 to 4-12) with nineteen minutes to play.
“No, absolutely not,” Eamon O’Shea told the Tipperary Star.
“I just thought that in our hurling there were signs all the time that we had never lost the will to survive. When you haven’t lost the will to survive with the hurling that we have things can happen.”
“It’s a good feeling for the team,” Eamon O’Shea explained.
“The manager takes the heat at times, but the team are the thing that matter. They are at an age where they want to express themselves and we are just trying to help them to express themselves. One of the great things about sport and working with players is that people think they know what’s here, but they don’t know. They don’t know what I know.”
The Kilruane MacDonagh’s man, however, was eager to dampen any dust of expectation rising off the road following such an impressive display.
“We are at a very early stage,” Eamon O’Shea added.
“I would not be building monuments to the team or anything like it. It is a very early stage. This is the first round of the qualifiers. We have to get ready for next week. It builds a little bit of momentum. The team has to continue to work that hard. It’s not a case of going out any day and thinking that’s it. If there are lessons to be learned that is the lesson. Good teams keep being good teams. That’s what we have been working towards.
“I am absolutely thrilled for the players. Contrary to what people think they are actually the easiest bunch to manage. They are actually easy to manage. They work really hard. They make mistakes like everybody does, but are actually a thrill to be around because of their hurling. I was just thrilled that they were able to show that on a big day. That for me is the thrill. It’s such an expressive game that it’s nice when, every once in a while, that expression brings about a jubilant performance. I am thrilled with the win, but I am even more thrilled by the exuberance of the performance.”
The reaction of the supporters to Tipperary’s defiant approach to the game obviously had a significant effect on everyone associated with the team.
“Hurling is not a static game; it has to involve the community,” a thrilled Eamon O’Shea said.
“I was delighted with the support and to give the supporters something to shout about. I would not be critical of supporters and I have never been critical of supporters in terms of demanding excellence from the players. People should not judge players without really knowing them.”
“It (criticism) is not disappointing because it is understandable. I don’t think disappointment comes into it,” Eamon O’Shea said.
“You have to take it on the chin and just move on. Criticism is part of sport. It is a public event that people have a right to be critical of as long as it doesn’t get into personalities and so on. That’s the only place where I would draw the line. I don’t mind being criticised at all. We are doing our best. We fail at times. We absolutely fail, but we are human. It’s nice now that the public can see the players in a different light. These are really good men. These are really good men.”
The recovery of Pádraic Maher from a mixed display at full-back to drive the team to a famous win from centre-back was held up as a positive example by Eamon O’Shea.
“Life is like that. I am talking about life all the time,” Eamon O’Shea explained.
“You go up and you go down; things are good and things are not good. If you can stay the course and if you can fight back, things will turn. I’m at an age where you hope that you know a few things. You just have to keep them ticking over.
“They needed this (win) for themselves. There is no point in trying to down play the significance of the result. The win was absolutely thrilling, but so was the way that they went about it and how they stayed at their game. I am definitely not trying to down play it in the context of where we are at as a team, but neither am I saying that this is the beginning of a glorious three months.
“We are training again tomorrow at twelve. We have a recovery session tomorrow and then we go on from there. This will be worthless if we don’t put another performance together next week. It’s nice to get the win and it takes a little bit of the pressure off, but sport at this level is a cruel master and if you are not ready for it you get dumped out of the competition. We have to be ready. It was nice to win, but already I am thinking about what we have to do tomorrow morning. That’s my focus and that’s their focus.”
Drom & Inch’s Séamus Callanan notched a stunning 3-8 on Saturday, a tally which did not surprise manager Eamon O’Shea, not in the least.
“I think Séamie is a class player,” Eamon O’Shea said with a smile.
“How many times can I say it? We talked during the week and he knew what he had to do. He was disappointed the last day that he didn’t finish off chances. He has the mark of a player who comes out at the highest level and does that.”
Man of the match Séamus Callanan also denied that he was concerned when Tipperary fell six points behind at Semple Stadium.
“I didn’t even look at the scoreboard to be honest. We play every ball as it comes. You keep doing your best for the team and hopefully the result will look after itself,” Séamus Callanan insisted.
Callanan also refused to take significant credit for the part he played in the win: “It is my job to score inside there when the boys have done all the hard work. It’s not every day that it works out, but today a few breaks came my way. The next day they may come someone else’s way. That’s the way we look at it; we all try to do our little bit and mind our own patch. If we all work hard together hopefully the wins will come”.
“We are a team that works fierce hard on the field and in training,” Séamus Callanan explained when reflecting on the criticism shipped by the Tipperary team following the defeat suffered at the hands of Limerick.
“Things did not work out in the Limerick game and we came under a lot of criticism. I think there was no need for a lot of that. I just hope that everyone gets behind us now and we can all drive on together from here.
“Limerick are the Munster champions and well-deserved Munster champions. They are going to be a strong team again this year and I wish them the best of luck. They showed great heart and they got their win; a well-deserved win. This is the route we are going and we are going to take every game as it comes.”
The Galway camp was, understandably, devastated in the wake of this dramatic defeat.
“It is cruel,” Galway managed Anthony Cunningham said.
“I suppose you couldn’t have seen the finish there with twenty minutes to go when we were five points up. We got a tremendous tune out of our guys and a tremendous performance, but I think we tired badly there in the last fifteen minutes and Tipperary finished stronger and got some very good scores. We threw everything at this game and it was a tremendous battle.
“We had a huge amount of top class players that got very tired, but in saying that Tipperary deserved to win in the finish. They finished the strongest team and won. They are a tremendous team and they have tremendous skill. To come down to Thurles and win any time is difficult. They are a top class side. It was probably the toughest draw of any team that we could have got.”