By Noel Dundon
Tipperary Manager Declan Ryan is delighted to be able to pick, more or less, from a full panel of players for the clash with Dublin on Sunday next - only attacker Seamus Hennessy (Kilruane MacDonagh) will be unavailable due to an ongoing knee problem.
Declan told the media this week, “We’ve a few little niggles but nothing major.
“We’ve played a couple of rounds of the club championship since the Munster Final, so it’s always nice to come through without any major injuries.
“We’ve a full panel to pick from for the semi-final.
“The semi-final will be a different type of match to the Munster Final and will be a much closer affair.
“We just hope we can be as good as we can be on the day,” the former Allstar said.
The gap between the Munster Final and the All-Ireland semi-final - five weeks - has been viewed as a positive thing in the Tipp camp and will not be used as an excuse were things to go wrong.
“Because we did so well in the Munster Final it has given us a chance to settle down and take all the comments that were passed about that match.
“They’re all in the past now, we’ve had the time to re-focus and get tuned into the semi-final, so from that point of view the gap has been positive for Tipperary.
“The gap has also allowed the club championship to progress in Tipp, so that’s important as well,” he said.
Declan will cross swords with a man he plooked up to when he came into the Tipp squad as a young man in 1987.
Richie Stakelum was Tipp captain at the time and a real role model for the man who would go on to win All-Ireland medals in three different decades.
“I know Richie Stakelum since 1987 - that’s a long time ago now, but I wouldn’t have been in regular contact with Richie since then. Dublin are playing with the confidence that Richie carried as a player.
“You can see some of his abilities and some of his qualities in the Dublin team.
“Richie was an excellent captain and a good leader.
“He was a good man to motivate players and organise, and he had brought all those qualities with him into the Dublin set-up.
“Dublin are scoring goals this year and goals are very important in championship hurling.
“They play a very physical type of game, they’re well organised, they have a certain style of play and they stick to that.
“It’s very important at this level that you have a game plan and you stick to it.
“Obviously Anthony Daly’s mark is there to be seen on the team as well. They’re wholehearted and committed and they’ll fight to the bitter end.
“They’re all very strong, physical players and Dublin are going to be around for a while because they’re coming at underage as well.
“It’s important for hurling that Dublin are competing, and all the hard work they’re doing is paying off up there.
“Part of our preparation this year is not to take anything for granted.
“We don’t expect things to go well for us every day, but we expect the players to try as hard as they can and play as hard as they can. So far they’ve done that.”
“In their last two competitive outings Dublin have beaten Tipperary.
“They blew us off the field in the league in Croke Park this year.
“Our lads have improved a lot since and they’ve worked and trained very hard but Dublin have improved as well.
“It’s going to be a great test for Tipperary to see how we fare against Dublin.
“Conal Keaney scored 10 points when Dublin beat Tipp in the League and his absence would be a big blow to Dublin and to hurling, because he’s the type of player that people go to see.
“He’s physical and aggressive and a great athlete and it’s pity for the game of hurling that he won’t be available.
“But Dublin have a very big panel, and I’m sure they’ll be going gung-ho.
“Dublin don’t have anything to lose playing Tipperary.
“Conal Keaney would be a huge loss to any inter-county team but we’ve to focus on the players that are going to be on the pitch for Dublin and we know that they’ll be very well prepared.”
“One thing we’ve learned is that this is a very committed group of Tipperary players.
“They’re a fantastic group to be working with, anything we’ve asked them to do to date, they’ve done very well and to the best of their ability.
“They’re hungry for success, with an appetite for very hard work, and that’s what has brought the team to the level they’re at.
“Hopefully we can maintain that going into the semi-final,” Declan said.