The Tipperary senior hurlers will get their competitive season off to a start on Sunday afternoon next in MacDonagh Park, Nenagh when they entertain Limerick Institute of Technology in the Waterford Crystal Cup.
This tournament has proven to be of enormous value to The Premier County in recent times as it has afforded the opportunity to have a look at a few new players in advance of the cut and thrust of Allianz National Hurling League fare. And, 2014 will be no different with the Eamonn O’Shea led management team determined to have a good look at fringe players and potential seniors during the course of the Waterford Crystal campaign.
The Tipp lads have had a number of outings already since they resumed training with matches against Wexford, Westmeath, Offaly and UCC all proving to be very competitive and benefitial. A number of newcomers have shown up well in these games and they will be tried out to see how they cope with the transition to full competitive action in the Waterford Crystal. Granted this is a good distance away from championship-like tempo, but at the moment it is the best guage the selection team has when it comes to assessing players strengths and weaknesses. There has been a real willingness on the part of the selection team to give youth it’s fling and see how they fare in the senior ranks. And, by and large, the results have been quite good with a number of the new players putting a hand up and suggesting that they are more than capable of holding their own at the highest level. Of course time will tell if they can maintain their good form, but the early indications are that Tipperary could well have a far different look to the 2014 outfit in comparison to the 2012 team for instance. Already a number of changes have been introduced on the playing side of things with style and application having been altered to try and find a winning formula. Clare’s exploits in 2013 have also focused the minds of all management teams and would seem to suggest that fast, attacking ball players with a high workrate ethic is the way forward. Until somebody counters this with another style entirely, this would seem to be the template for the game of hurling for the foreseeable future.
Tipperary have also introduced ‘new blood’ on the sidelines with Eamonn O’Shea having recruited former Irish International athlete Gary Ryan and former Armagh All-Ireland winning Captain and Kildare football Manager Kieran McGeeney who was married just last week. Their roles within the comprehensive set-up will be to help gain a competitive edge for Tipperary in whatever way they can and they will be expected to use their considerable experience to help infuse the Tipp squad with confidence and knowhow.
It is unlikely that Sunday will see the benefits of their input, coming as it does at so early a stage. However, Tipperary folks will be hoping that come the business end of the season, a cutting edge will emerge thanks to the input of the two new men outside the tramlines.