Seamus Callanan hails the return of Eamon O'Shea
By John Harrington
Tipperary senior hurling team captain, Seamus Callanan, says Liam Sheedy’s decision to bring Eamon O’Shea into his backroom team has been a very popular move with all the players.
O’Shea previously managed Tipperary from 2013 to 2015 and was also a team-coach during Sheedy’s first spell as Tipperary manager from 2008 to 2010.
“Yeah, great to have him around now,” said Callanan today in Croke Park where it was announced Bord Gáis Energy will sponsor the All-Ireland SHC for another three years.
“I've often said Eamon has been huge for me and huge for that group, the older group that's in the panel.
“It's great to have him back around. We're very lucky to have him, we're very lucky to have the set-up that we do have.
“Look, hopefully it can just bring him a bit of luck this year and we can go a few steps further than we did last year hopefully.”
O’Shea’s speciality as a coach is working with forwards and Callanan is in no doubt that he wouldn’t have become the player he is today were it not for the Kilruane man’s influence over a long period of time.
“Eamon gave me the freedom to go out and express myself in training, become the best player I could be,” said Callanan. “He believed in me.
“He's a very intelligent man about hurling and I love the way he looks at hurling and views hurling. We had a connection on that.
“He's very good to all the players. He makes you enjoy it. When you are enjoying your hurling, you always seem to play better.
“It's great to have him back involved. He's like us all - we love Tipperary hurling. Eamon just wants to see us perform to our ability. Whatever way he can help in that process, he wants to do it for us.
“We're just very grateful to have him back around the place. He brings a great positive mentality around the place. He's very welcome.”
A positive mentality is exactly what Callanan himself has ahead of the 2019 Munster Championship.
He’s had a far more ideal preparation for this year’s campaign than he did last year when surgery on a bulging disc in his back prevented him from playing a single minute of hurling in the League.
“Absolutely, yeah, a full pre-season done, league campaign in and lots of matches there,” said Callanan.
“Definitely feeling positive about the injury and have that put to the back of my mind now.
“That's behind me now, I can move on. The big thing now is to be able to perform. To be able to train every night is a huge thing. Some people maybe don't value the fact of actually being able to train.
“You be worrying about your performance but to actually be able to take the pitch and not be injured, it's brilliant to be able to just do that - and obviously apply yourself the best way possible and put your best foot forward after that.”
The surgery on his back was a success, but for the remainder of his hurling career Callanan will have to stick to a personalised regime of strength and flexibility exercises to ensure the problem doesn’t flare up again.
“Absolutely,” said Callanan. “We've a very good S&C with us there. He does a lot of work with me and we have very good physios. You have to keep on top of it at all times.
“It's the type of thing if I neglected it for two weeks, I'd feel pain coming back again. You literally have to keep at it the whole time and keep on top of it.
“Look, that's probably a lot of GAA players scenarios now so I'm no different to anyone else in that regard. Everyone is trying to do an extra bit with injury prevention in mind. It's just part of the game these days.”
One of Callanan’s longest-serving team-mates, Brendan Maher, has also shown a single-minded dedication to overcoming a significant injury set-back.
When he ruptured knee ligaments in last year’s Munster Championship defeat to Clare some worried it might be a career-ending injury.
So the manner in which he has fought his way back from it to the point where he was able to make a comeback as a sub against Dublin in the recent Allianz Hurling League quarter-final has been a real source of inspiration for all his team-mates.
“Brendan has shown his character by coming back from that injury,” said Callanan.
“I suppose the physical conditioning that he is in after coming back from that injury [is great].
“He didn't come back in poor shape and only trying to start from there, he came back in better shape than he was ever in.
“He's a real inspiration. s he always was on the hurling field, he was an inspiration on his comeback. When we were training away, we just knew that he was working as hard, if not harder.
“It's always harder when you are working in your own. He was putting in huge effort and still leading by example in everything he has done. It's great to have a bit of game time into Brendan in the last game of the league.
“Hopefully, he'll come through the club stuff well and healthy. He's a huge boost to us - he's a great guy on the pitch and off the pitch and just hugely valuable to the set-up.”
Callanan and Maher are part of a group of Tipperary players that includes Patrick Maher, Paudie Maher, Noel McGrath, and Michael Cahill who won an All-Ireland title together in 2010 and are still going strong.
They’re coming into the final chapter of their inter-county careers now, and Callanan admits they’re determined to achieve all they can before their window of opportunity finally closes.
“Absolutely,” he said. “There's nowhere else that we want to be. Playing for Tipperary is everything for us. We just want to try and make the most of it when you are there, try to get as much as we can out of it.
“The thing is, every other county has lads thinking the same. It's just we have to drive it on and hopefully bring back something to the set-up this year because last year was disappointing; to be gone out of the championship on June 9th was very disappointing.
“We know we're a bit away from it yet. We're just hoping that we can set the building blocks and, bit by bit, grind our way back to where we want to be.
“There's something great about being in a set-up - where it's work or sport - that you're always trying to improve. There's still a serious buzz there from being in the set-up. As long as that's there, it a great place to be.”