Tipperary senior hurling manager Michael Ryan.
The Tipperary hurlers take on Kilkenny in round four of the Allianz National Hurling League (division 1A) on Sunday, February 25th at Nowlan Park, Kilkenny (throw-in 2pm). Typically a clash with the side guided by Brian Cody pushes Tipp to the limit, but the task faced by Michael Ryan's men has been made all the more complicated this week since the Premier County will make the trip to the Marble County without their Fitzgibbon Cup contingent.
Jason Forde (Silvermines), John McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Barry Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg) and Paul Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash) feature on the University of Limerick team which faces Dublin City University in the Fitzgibbon Cup final on Saturday, February 24th.
“We have four involved with UL. So, in terms of our four we will just let them off. They won’t feature next weekend,” manager Michael Ryan explained following his side's 3-21 to 1-21 win over Wexford on Saturday.
“The facts are the facts - we can’t play them in two games in the space of twenty-four hours,” Ryan said before his thoughts turned to the up-coming schedule of games.
In round five the Premier County host Cork on Sunday, March 4th - the quarter-finals are scheduled to take place on the week-ending March 11th, semi-finals on the week-ending March 18th and the league final is fixed for Saturday, March 24th.
“After game day one we were coming home from Ennis and you would not like the look of the table and in game day two we got a start,” Michael Ryan explained.
“Every point is valuable when you want to be in that quarter-final place. The knock-out stages is still the aim - there are still four points to be played for and as far as our boys are concerned we immediately have to turn our attention to thinking about Sunday. This is a great league and it always has been a great league. In division 1A this is dog eat dog,” the Upperchurch man added.
“It’s hectic. We are being as sensible as we possibly can. Thankfully, we are still standing up straight. The Fitzgibbon (Cup) is coming to its climax next weekend and at that stage we will be upon game day four and, to be fair, for any of the guys that have been involved I don’t see any signs of fatigue on those. So, in fairness the colleges are not killing them. They don’t train them, we train them and I think that’s a good balance to strike.”
Kilkenny lost the opening two rounds of the league to Cork (0-24 to 1-24) and Clare (1-18 to 2-18), but the Cats recovered and won well away to Waterford on Sunday last (1-20 to 1-12).
Michael Cahill may well be ruled out of action for two weeks with an infection while Cathal Barrett (groin strain) will be available for consideration ahead of the clash with Kilkenny.
Michael Ryan also revealed that Barry Heffernan was not injured, but was called ashore on Saturday evening due to fatigue.
The Nenagh Éire Óg wing-back marked the outstanding Lee Chin at Semple Stadium, Thurles. And, the pair had an eye-catching battle.
“I thought they had a great battle there between them in the first half and I thought Barry edged it coming up towards the end of the half. You can’t buy that experience,” Michael Ryan explained.
“Then you look at Paudie Feehan, another young fella on the other wing. He had a really busy first half and that’s a good standard. Wexford are at a really, really good standard,” Ryan added.
Meanwhile Michael Ryan admitted that Feehan’s lightning-fast progression had caught him by surprise: “He is a competitor first and foremost. I think that once you have that in your armoury you are not too young. He is just a real breath of fresh air. He just comes up and wants to hurl - as they all do to be honest. Paudie is a bit of a surprise because he made so much progress so quickly.
“Normally it’s a one-year apprenticeship or it can be a two-year apprenticeship, but Paudie looks to have got out of the traps early,” Ryan added.
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