Sheedy demands work-ethic ahead of Cork showdown
By John Harrington
As a coach or manager, Liam Sheedy has always been tactically flexible enough to develop a game-plan that best suits the ability of his players rather than try to force square pegs into round holes.
But when you hurl for him there is always one non-negotiable – work-ethic.
Many say it’s hard to know what to expect from Tipperary when they play Cork in Sunday’s Munster SHC first round tie at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
But Sheedy hopes that at the very least the attitude of his players will be predictable.
That will be music to the ears of Tipperary fans who have occasionally grumbled that their team hasn’t always found the right balance between style and substance.
“In fairness we would feel that sometimes maybe our own fans would question our work ethic throughout the pitch, and that it’s something we would show flashes of,” admits Sheedy.
“But, look, we've all listened behind the old stand and on that side-line and they do reward that honest endeavour.
“We have very, very skilful players, but it's bringing that and complementing that with a really, really high work ethic and I think that's where the bar is set in the Munster championship.
“There's a serious, serious work ethic required now to be competitive at the top level.
“I think the boys are prepared to a level to leave it all there on the pitch and I can't ask any more of them.
“There's not one thing I'd change in terms of their preparation, they've given it absolutely everything that's been asked of them and they have been challenged every night they've come in.
“But ultimately it is all about the championship and that's what makes me excited and looking forward to it.
“So to be going down to Cork, to a pitch where our results speak for themselves, it's not a place that can be seen as a happy hunting ground either at under-21 or senior level.
“But that's the challenge of the Munster championship, we know exactly what's facing us and it's something that we've got to embrace. We've put a lot into our preparation so we're just really looking forward to it.”
It’s fitting that the first Championship match of Sheedy’s second coming as Tipperary manager should be against Cork.
They were also the first Championship opposition he faced in his rookie year Tipperary senior team manager in 2008 when the Premier County claimed their first Championship win on Leeside since 1923.
That victory was the first major milestone in a journey that culminated with Sheedy’s Tipperary defeating Kilkenny in the 2010 All-Ireland Final.
The Portroe-man stepped down as manager in the wake of that 2010 success, and admits that in the intervening nine years the game has change significantly at the highest level.
“Yeah, look, it has,” he said. “There's an awful lot of work going into the way teams set up.
“Everyone is looking for the edge, especially on the restarts which is the big part of the game now.
“The game has changed, but, ultimately, the one thing that hasn't changed is that whoever scores the most, wins. It is about being able to get on the ball and really do good things with that ball.
“As I said, there's an awful lot of work put into opposing teams, but, ultimately, what it is about is how you prepare and the style of play you want to bring.
“Look, we've a lot of work put into that and, certainly, we're looking forward to the Munster Championship.
“We've left no stone unturned in terms of our preparation.”
To that end, Sheedy has assembled a formidable backroom team that was recently supplemented by the addition of former manager Eamonn O’Shea who shares coaching duties with Tommy Dunne and Darragh Egan.
“I think the support team around you is very, very important and I'm very fortunate that I've got an exceptional backroom team,” said Sheedy.
“Ultimately all I do is facilitate the team. The manager's role is to facilitate the group and as I said I'm really happy with my backroom team and support team, I'm really happy with this group of players.
“Eamonn and myself, that's something that goes back a long way. Not just as a manager and coach in our previous set-up, but as two very, very good friends.
“I'm very fortunate to have people like Eamonn, Tommy, and Darragh working with the team. They're all exceptional coaches and exceptional people in their own right.
“So, as I said, it really is full-on. When you've got 40 players on the pitch you really do need a lot of bodies and we're fortunate in Tipp that we have the calibre of people like Eamonn, Tommy, and Darragh.
“And the fact that they are home-grown, it really does help as well in terms of our ethos and what we're trying to achieve in Tipperary.”
Sheedy might have assembled a formidable brains-trust to help him do the job, but there’s no mistaking who the boss is.
His force of personality played a big part in Tipperary’s renaissance during his first stint in charge of the team and he’s brining the same energy to the role in his second coming.
“It's a great place to be,” said Sheedy. “You probably don't realise what you're missing, when you get a chance to work with top class players, top class athletes who just give you so much every night of the week...I'd have huge, huge admiration for the work they put in, honestly these players should be complimented for it and I know it's replicated all across the country.
“But the energy and effort that is being put in by this group of players in Tipperary that I'm seeing is something that I'd have huge admiration for, and that's why I really do hope the Tipperary public come in behind them because honestly, the effort they put in is huge.”