By Brian McDonnell
Tipperary take on Clare this Friday night (7.30pm) in a Munster minor hurling semi-final at Semple Stadium with manager Raymie Ryan delighted to report that he has a full panel to pick from.
“We’ve a clean bill of health,” Ryan told the Tipperary Star this week.
“A lot of guys had broken bones and back problems, but we’ve a clean bill of health for the first time this year.”
Raymie Ryan manages the side while the Cashel King Cormac’s man is joined on the management team by selectors Ray Ralph (Moycarkey-Borris), Liam Flannery (Nenagh Éire Óg) and Jim Dunne (Moyle Rovers).
For the first round, a clash Tipperary lost to Waterford (1-13 to 2-16), the Premier had to plan without such emerging stars as Loughmore-Castleiney’s John McGrath, but Ryan’s side re-grouped to beat Cork (2-16 to 1-9) in the loser’s group.
And, they are now ready to face Clare on Friday night.
Indeed, Raymie Ryan has plenty of quality to choose from with the varying options presenting him plenty of headaches.
“It does indeed, but that’s what you want,” admitted Raymie Ryan.
“You want headaches; you want arguments when you’re picking a team. You want fellas pushing for places on the team and panel.
“Yeah, it’s good when you have a full panel to pick from.”
If Tipperary are to collect their 37th provincial minor crown on Sunday, July 10 they will have to beat Clare, the defending Munster champions, on Friday night.
Clare beat Kerry (6-24 to 1-8) in the first round and have eight survivors from the team which lost the 2010 All-Ireland final to Kilkenny.
The Banner will be strong at midfield where Tony Kelly and Colm Galvin have formed a potent partnership, Oisín Hickey, Alan Mulready and Aaron Cunningham will take watching up front while Sixmilebridge’s Jamie Shanahan leads the defence at centre-back.
Although Tipperary would have preferred to beat Waterford in the opening round there is no doubt that a second outing against Cork has provided Raymie Ryan with an opportunity to fine tune his side.
“You’re building a team from scratch and obviously you find out most about your team in championship,” Raymie Ryan explained.
“You can play all the challenges you like, but you find out the most about your team in championship. We came up short against Waterford, but we learned a lot from our mistakes and then we played Cork. Okay we won a poor game (against Cork), but again we won and we learned a lot from our mistakes. Hopefully the experience of having played two championship games will stand to us.”
Ryan, however, dismisses any suggestion that Tipp now enjoy an advantage over the Banner: “it will just come down to the evening and to which team adapts to the conditions and the championship pace best.
“And, to which team wants to win it most.”
Although Tipp have not claimed provincial honours since 2007 the Premier have represented a persistent force at minor level in recent years - Tipp narrowly lost the 2008 and 2009 finals to Cork and Waterford respectively while Clare beat them by a single point last summer (0-17 to 1-13) in Cusack Park.
Cathal Barrett, John Meagher, Jason Forde, Liam McGrath, Cathal Horan and Dan McCormack played for Tipperary on that occasion, but Raymie Ryan does not believe that the experience will have any bearing on Friday night: “absolutely none because it’s two completely different teams.
“Every year there’s a different minor team going out and it’s totally different,” the Cashel man added.
The minor hurlers will be hoping that recent provincial history persists this term - for the past three years the eventual Munster minor champions (Cork in 2008, Waterford in 2009 & Clare in 2010) all lost their first round games. And, with players of the calibre of John Meagher at full-back, Jason Forde at centre-back, Eoin Fennelly at midfield, John and Liam McGrath in the forwards and corner-forward Cathal Horan (who scored 2-2 v Cork) Tipperary have every chance of beating Clare and progressing to the Munster final.
“Every team looks forward to championship nights and we’re no different,” Raymie Ryan added.
“We’re looking forward to Friday night and hopefully we can do ourselves and our county proud”.
Tipperary minor panel: James Maher (Clonoulty-Rossmore), James Bourke (Moycarkey-Borris), John Meagher (Loughmore-Castleiney), Jack Peters (Kilruane MacDonagh’s), Cathal Barrett (Holycross-Ballycahill), Jason Forde (Silvermines, captain), Thomas Hamill (Killea), Conor Hammersley (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Eoin Fennelly (Mullinahone), Seán Maher (Clonoulty-Rossmore), Pat Ralph (Moycarkey-Borris), Tom Kirwan (Ballybacon-Grange), Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Dan McCormack (Borris-Ileigh), Cathal Horan (Mullinahone), Barry Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg), Bill Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), Pat Ryan (Knockavilla-Donaskeigh Kickhams), Shane Hassett (Drom & Inch), Seámus Kennedy (St. Mary’s), John Ryan (Upperchurch-Drombane), Michael Breen (Ballina), Stephen Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields), Kevin Slattery (Gortnahoe-Glengoole), Jason Bergin (Moyne-Templetuohy), David Corbett (Thurles Sarsfields), Michael Cussen (Moycarkey-Borris), Tadhg Gallagher (Kildangan), John McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney) & Mark Tuite (Nenagh Éire Óg).