Sheedy confident Tipp hurlers can winter well
By John Harrington
One of the most consistent points of debate around the 2020 All-Ireland Hurling Championship is the impact playing in winter will have.
Most pundits are of the opinion that winter hurling will suit some teams better than others, and not many of them seem to think Tipperary are one of those teams who will thrive with a heavy sod and wet ball.
Not surprisingly, Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy isn’t inclined to agree.
“The bottom line is that ball can travel long distances, whether there is rain in the sky or sun,” he says.
“The way we can transfer the ball from one part of the field to the other, we have real top quality strikers and irrespective of the weather we have the ability to do really nice things with the ball in hand. The challenge for us is to get the ball often enough.
“We have a good quality of striker in our team, both in terms of the tried and trusted guys, and the younger guys that are coming through.
“There should be an adaptability to any particular day or conditions that is going to be really important. We have that within the squad.
“I couldn’t speak highly enough of the way the lads have gone about their business over the last few weeks.
“There is a lot of risks and threats, stuff going on outside your performance bubble so I would be hugely complimentary of the way the lads have gone about their business and it’s all with the view of us being in peak performance mode come Sunday because we know if we are not we won’t have any chance of making it to a Munster Final.”
Team selection is always a big conundrum for All-Ireland winning managers the year after they win the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
Do you keep faith with the players who took you to the top of the mountain, or do you make a few changes to ward off complacency and ensure rival teams have another problem to solve?
Sheedy experimented with his selection in the League quite a bit before lockdown, and is confident in the options the panel’s strength in depth gives him.
"I'm really happy with the squad and the level of competition within the squad in terms of trying to secure the jersey," he says.
“It certainly is a privileged position. We have people really driving hard to get into that 26 and in that 26 we have people driving hard to get into the first 15.
“I sit here right now and I'd be very happy with the level of competition that exists for places.
“I couldn't be happier with the level of energy and effort these players are showing me in the training environment. The secret and the challenge for us is to get the right 15 out and put in the five that are going to make the difference to bring a really strong performance because we know anything other than a top class performance and we will come up well short because of the structure and the way this team (Limerick) coming in has got the benefit of a match behind them.”
If Sheedy is going to pull a rabbit from his hat in terms of team selection, then it might well be the inclusion of John Meagher in defence.
A member of the Tipperary football panel for the last two years, Meagher was excellent at centre-back for Loughmore Castleiney in this year’s Tipperary club championship.
Maher had a previous stint in the hurling panel before he joined up with footballers, but a recurring hamstring injury hindered his progress.
The 27-year old is a formidable athlete as well as a talented hurler, and could be a good fit to go up against Limerick’s much vaunted and highly physical half-forward line.
"I had a conversation with John and in fairness to John he is an outstanding footballer as well as a hurler,” says Sheedy.
“When you have a guy like that the decision-making moves over to him. I had a chat with John last year, he said he was anxious to give the football another year so that was where that conversation finished.
“Obviously, at the back end of the club championship I just rang and asked John had anything changed. I spoke to (Tipperary football manager) David Power as well - myself and David Power have an excellent relationship.
“He's a top-class guy trying to do his thing with the footballers in the county. But ultimately John made the decision and in fairness to David he was very supportive of what John wanted to do and I was the same.
“I said to John, 'Look, if you want to have a cut off the inter-county hurling we would be happy to grant you that chance and if you are happy with the footballers that's absolutely fine'.
“As a result, he has joined the panel and is doing really well. He is a great guy, really applying himself very well and has slotted in very well with the whole group, which is great to see.”