Following the seven-point defeat (0-20 to 4-15) to Clare in Semple Stadium on Sunday Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea was in upbeat mood declaring that his side were “down, but we’re not out”.
A 8,133-strong crowd witnessed the All-Ireland champions help themselves to four goals against a home side which struggled to deal with the shape of the Clare team.
“We are disappointed,” admitted Eamon O’Shea.
“The first half was poor enough. We found it hard to get on top of what their structure was; the goals went in and that was what subsequently cost us. We had a good chat at half time and I think we improved in the second half until they got the fourth goal. We’re disappointed.”
Tipperary trailed the All-Ireland champions 0-8 to 3-7 at the interval with Conor McGrath wreaking havoc on a regular basis up front for David Fitzgerald’s imaginative side. That said Eamon O’Shea and can’t have been pleased with the nature of the Tipperary defending during that opening period.
“No, no,” Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea conceded.
“We were opened up. We have tried to do some work on that, but sometimes you get opened up and we did.
“At the same time we are still trying to work hard and to improve. I think last year we won games and it didn’t really tell us where we were in terms of personnel. I think this year this (result) tells us exactly where we are and how much work we have to do. That’s the only positive that I can take from it.”
In two games Tipperary have now conceded 9-35 and were also reasonably fortunate to beat Waterford in their opening league game.
A significant improvement in performance will now be required to stave off any relegation worries - Tipperary are away to Galway (March 16th) and home to Dublin in Nenagh on March 23rd during the final two rounds of the group phase.
On Sunday Tipperary were missing Pádraic Maher, Séamus Callanan and several other established players, but Eamon O’Shea was not prepared to accept that as any excuse for the defeat.
“We just tried to respond to what they were trying to do and they were better today,” Eamon O’Shea told the Tipperary Star.
“The team that was out there was the team and we have to give young players a chance. We are trying to change things as well so sometimes they go well for young fellas and sometimes they don’t. I was very happy with the second half. That’s the most positive thing that I can say. It’s a league match in March so, hopefully, we will be in a happier place in a couple of months.
“You are always hoping for more, but it’s a slow process sometimes when you are bringing on players. Sometimes you get setbacks and sometimes players play really well. Sometimes it takes players a little bit longer to break into it. We are doing our damdest, that’s all I can say to try to get better.”
When asked whether the line-up would be altered significantly for the up-coming clash with Galway Eamon O’Shea said he didn’t know.
“I don’t know to be honest with you,” Eamon O’Shea said.
“There will be changes, I suppose, to give more fellas an opportunity next week. Actually we’re not too disappointed in there would you believe. We are disappointed that we lost, very disappointed that we lost, but we feel we did have chances. We had 15 wides and four into the goalkeeper’s hand. I think we probably had two or three goal chances and those can turn over. We’re down, but we’re not out.”
Eamon O’Shea revealed that Eoin Kelly had returned to training and that he was looking forward to getting some of his more established players back from injury.
“If I get back some of my injured players I would be very happy. Some of them are on the way back. Eoin (Kelly) should be okay for next week. He’s back in training Tuesday. Conor O’Mahony will benefit from the game, from that time on the pitch and Paudie (Pádraic Maher) will be back next week. Look, I’m not using that as an excuse. The team that went out are the team that we picked. You are always trying things and I would be very happy with the guys who went out and the players who tried to play. That was the Tipperary team and that’s the way it is. We just got beaten.”
With league points now vital Tipperary will travel to Galway next Sunday in search of a win which could propel the Premier toward the knock-out stages of this year’s Allianz National Hurling League. Eamon O’Shea, however, denied that he felt under any semblance of pressure.
“The pressure is always on when you are in Tipperary,” Eamon O’Shea said with a smile.
“That’s why you love the job. Look, it’s a hurling match lads. We will do our best next Saturday or Sunday in Galway. I don’t feel any pressure to be honest with you. I have a lot of things to feel pressurised about.
“I want to try to get the lads to enjoy what they do and if they do enjoy it more they can play better. That’s really the task for me; to make sure that when they go out there that they can play and play with a bit more freedom. That’s what we are trying to do.
“We would be disappointed, but we certainly wouldn’t feel that we’re out in any sense yet even though the better team won today.”