Ryan heralds the efforts of his players as Woodlock returns to the Tipp team

DESPITE the one-point defeat suffered at the hands of the Waterford Institute of Technology in the preliminary round of the Waterford Crystal Cup in Clonmel on Sunday Tipperary manager Declan Ryan insisted that there was no need for concern and that his squad is eager to defend their All-Ireland senior hurling crown.

DESPITE the one-point defeat suffered at the hands of the Waterford Institute of Technology in the preliminary round of the Waterford Crystal Cup in Clonmel on Sunday Tipperary manager Declan Ryan insisted that there was no need for concern and that his squad is eager to defend their All-Ireland senior hurling crown.

"From talking to them all I think they are anxious to get back to doing some hard work and are looking forward to the challenges that lie ahead," Declan Ryan said.

"I suppose the game against Kilkenny in the league is going to focus us pretty much at the moment anyway."

Tipperary will host Kilkenny in a mouth-watering National Hurling League encounter under lights at Semple Stadium on Saturday, February 12. And, manager Declan Ryan, coach Tommy Dunne and selector Michael Gleeson will now endeavor to prepare their squad for that test.

"We are satisfied enough, it was good old workout against WIT," Declan Ryan told the Tipperary Star.

"It's four weeks yesterday (Saturday) before we play Kilkenny in the league and a lot of the lads are only back from Jamaica on Tuesday so in fairness it was hard on them today."

The performance of WIT impressed the Tipperary manager, especially that of Kilruane's Brian 'Buggy' O'Meara and Clonoulty Rossmore's Timmy Hammersley who scored a whopping 1-10 in all.

"They (WIT) had a good bit of work done I suppose," added Declan Ryan.

"The Fitzgibbon (Cup) is starting next week so I would say they had a lot more work done than us. Our guys are in the middle of a heavy training schedule at the minute so some of the legs looked heavy there finishing up. Timmy (Hammersley) played very well, I'll have to give out to him about that (laughs) and 'Buggy' (Brian) O'Meara showed very well there and used the ball very well. It was good to see Timmy scoring 1-8 or 1-9 there and Buggy did very well."

Only a handful of players who featured in the 2010 campaign togged out for Tipperary on Sunday. And, Declan Ryan explained that the management team had made a decision to use the game as an opportunity to blood new players.

"Well, we brought in a few lads that we want to have a look at and I suppose this was an ideal game to have a look at some of those guys whose names you wouldn't be that familiar with.

"It was good to see them in action there today so we will have to sit down now and pick a panel to play in the league. That's what today was about as much as anything really," Declan Ryan said.

Tipp could point to superb performances from Sean Carey (Moyle Rovers), Thurles' Pa Bourke and Nenagh ire g's Hugh Moloney, but it was the return of Drom & Inch's James Woodlock following a long lay-off through injury which caught Declan Ryan's eye.

"Yeah, I was delighted to see James Woodlock coming back after a long lay-off with his injury. So, that was certainly very pleasing," he explained.

"I thought we played very well in the first ten minutes in the way we kept the ball, but after that it was downhill I'm afraid. In the first ten minutes we showed what we were capable of I suppose, but there is a lot of guys there who have not played together before so we need to work on team work."

Although disappointed to see Tipperary lose to WIT in their first competitive game of the year James Woodlock was delighted to be back playing.

"It's great to get back. It's been 16 or 17 months now and it's good to be back," James Woodlock explained.

"I didn't think I would be back this early, but Declan asked me the other night if I thought I would be able for a match on Sunday. I kind of said no at the start, but then after a bit of training I said I might be able for some of it. It has been tough, you know it was 16 or 17 months without holding a hurley and today was my first competitive match and I had my first training session last Thursday night.

"It feels good, you would feel a small bit of pain, but it's not too bad. It feels good and it's coming along all the time.

"It's taken 16 months, for the first six or seven weeks I didn't do a thing and just lay in the bed. Once I was out of the bed Cian O'Neill (trainer) and John Casey (physio) started giving me programmes to do and I just worked and worked and worked, but I never thought I would get back to this stage. The break was just so bad that it took time to get right."

Anyone who knows the Drom & Inch man knows that Woodlock would not lack for motivation as he fought his way back to full fitness.

"Ah sure I wasn't going to stop," James Woodlock said.

"You're only a few years at it so I'll do as much as I can. I missed all of last year which was a huge year and, of course, I missed my club as well.

"It's great to get back. A lot of the lads were giving out about playing in the muck today, but I wasn't. It's been a long time coming for me now so I was just looking forward to it."