Woodlock: 'Leaders always find a way'
By Kevin Egan
It was the comeback nobody saw coming – or nobody outside of the Tipperary dressing room, at least. However after coming through a series of heartstopping finishes this year, not least in the Munster final against Clare and again in a thrilling All-Ireland semi-final clash with Galway, Tipperary manager James Woodlock never felt that Sunday’s Electric Ireland All-Ireland minor hurling final was out of reach for his players.
“If it hadn’t happened to us the whole way through the year, you might have doubted it today. But we hung in there all the time. When you’re down the home straight and you’re four points down, with two minutes left on the clock, it’s hard keep your composure. But leaders always find a way to win games and they did it again today” he said after the game.
At the end of what was a very difficult summer for Tipperary at senior level, Sunday’s Irish Press Cup win has reassured supporters that there are high-calibre replacements in the pipeline, ready to step in and try to raise standards after so many legendary figures stepped away.
This group had been earmarked from a long way out as a talented cohort, starting from their 2019 Tony Forristal victory, and Woodlock was acutely aware that the eyes of the county were firmly fixed on them in this championship.
“Any time you put your hand up for a Tipperary job, the pressure’s on straight away” said the Drom-Inch club man.
“But realistically we got no run at it last year. I knew this year, preparation was key to everything, and if that game had to go against us today, I couldn’t turn around and say that there was anything else that we could have done.
“A few years ago I was involved with the academies, which are huge in Tipperary GAA, and the U-15s and U-16s are definitely coming up behind these as well. But someone said that no-one has ever won the Tony Forristal and gone on to win the minor, and I did hold that in the back of my mind. I never said it to the players, but it was always something that I wanted to put right”.
With regard to the contest, Woodlock reckoned that it was only in the closing stages that his side was the better team, but that wasn’t a huge surprise, based on his analysis.
“Offaly played a small bit like Clare, they kept it really tight at the back and they were good in the air, they were knocking the ball to ground.
“We didn’t get to grips with it, and Offaly were excellent, but we didn’t impose ourselves on the game at all. Then when we went a man down, Paddy (McCormack) went in there on his own in the full-forward line and he won ball in there and got a couple of scores off it.
“We did say coming in today that we’ll get to 45 minutes, or less, and we’ll be able to unleash the bench. We knew we were stronger in that department, there was none of our lads going down with cramp, we knew we were ready.
“It has been a tough year on management and players because we’ve asked a lot of them, and they responded every time. We had harsh words at half-time but the lads responded to that as well, and they knew it was all for the good of Tipperary hurling”.