McGrath keen to end long Leeside hoodoo

McGrath keen to end long Leeside hoodoo

From  By Jim O’Sullivan 

THE weight of history is hanging heavy on Tipperary ahead of their opening Munster championship assignment away to Cork on June 8 but midfielder Shane McGrath isn’t buckling under the burden.

McGrath admits that ‘all they are hearing’ is that the Premier County haven’t beaten their great rivals in Cork for over 80 years but he insists he and his teammates are using the statistic as a motivational tool.

“We’ll have that at the back of our minds but records are there to be broken,” he said at yesterday’s Vodafone Player of the Month Awards. 

“Going down there playing Cork in Cork — it doesn’t get any better than that.

“You play championship hurling for days like that. And we are where we want to be at this time of year. Lads are going well, there’s a good buzz in training.”

There’s a ready appreciation of the task confronting them on June 8.

“It (the rivalry) speaks for itself. There will be no margin for error.

“Every inch is going to count that day.”

Tipperary enter this game as NHL champions and McGrath admits that the campaign was hugely successful not just in terms of silverware.

He explained: “The League this year was great for us this year. Our aim at the start was to get to the final and we did that.

“Winning was a great bonus. (Manager) Liam (Sheedy) and the management realised they had to try out new players and there are some great young lads coming through, Seamus Callanan for example. He came on in every match and made an impression. He’s going to be a great prospect and it’s the same with a few more lads.

“They got to use 26 or 27 players which for any management is brilliant in a league campaign.

“You can’t buy experience. This is my third year. I am doing things differently to what I did two years ago.

“You learn from guys around you, guys like Eoin Kelly and others who have been around for a few years.”

McGrath’s praise isn’t just reserved for his teammates — Sheedy is ‘a real players man,’ he comments while he also has been impressed with selectors Eamonn O’Shea and Michael Ryan.

“Everybody gets on really well with each other, which I think is another factor for us being successful,” he added.

Last year, he says it wasn’t so much a case of the players ‘not enjoying’ their involvement, more a case of being disheartened by the loss to Limerick after their three-game marathon in the Munster semi-final.

“Ask any Limerick guy, whichever team lost after the three games it was going to take a lot out of them. And it did, physically and mentally.

“We had to go out the following week and beat Offaly — luckily by a goal. When you’re not winning things, training is not as enjoyable, the media are putting you down and there is a negative reaction from fans. As well as that, we had so many injuries.

“We lost five players after the League game with Waterford and some of those carried through to the championship.” 


Ormonde: captaincy is no big deal

From By Brendan O’Brien
NOT for the first time in living memory, the Tipperary hurlers are likely to begin the summer with their captain sitting on the bench, but Paul Ormonde played down that unusual scenario at yesterday’s championship launch in Croke Park.

Under Tipperary’s rules, the county champions still retain the right to nominate the man they wish to see lead the side. That honour fell to the experienced Loughmore-Castleiney player after the club’s defeat of Drom and Inch last year.

The problem is that, since joining Liam Sheedy’s panel in the wake of their All-Ireland semi-final defeat to Portumna, Ormonde has found his route to the first 15 blocked by the excellent form of Conor O’Brien in the left corner. Ormonde did start Monday’s night’s challenge game against Galway in Nenagh, and is said to have given an impressive performance, but O’Brien is seen to be a nailed down starter for next month’s clash with Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. 

“The captaincy isn’t (a big deal) for me,” said Ormonde. “We have a great set-up in Tipp in that it is not a big issue. My big priority is to try and get on that team. There’s huge competition there for places.”

Tipp have faced this conundrum before. Two years ago, Ger ‘Redser’ O’Grady was made captain after Thurles Sarsfields’ county success despite being on the fringes of the team, but the situation has long lost the power to generate controversy like it once did in Tipp.

In 1988, Pa O’Neill captained the team right up until the All-Ireland semi-final after which he was sensationally dropped. Nicky English took over but O’Neill’s club Cappawhite were not informed of the decision at the time and ill feeling festered.

Lessons had been learned come the following year when Loughmore-Castleiney’s Pat McGrath failed to commandeer a starting position after being nominated. Bobby Ryan took his place by agreement and raised the Liam McCarthy that September.

The same protocol has been followed this year with Eoin Kelly deputising at the behest of Loughmore-Castleiney and Ormonde can point to the team’s superb league form to back up an argument that the captaincy issue hasn’t held the team back.

“There’s core leadership there in Tipperary. The captaincy isn’t that big a thing from a panel point of view. Everyone tries to contribute, even the quieter fellas. Obviously you do your best and say what you can if you feel it can help them but you still have to get your own house in order. That’s your main priority.”

Ormonde is well used to fighting for his spot. A regular on the league, Munster and All-Ireland winning sides in 2001, he struggled for years afterwards with a myriad of injuries and even walked away from Babs Keating’s panel last summer.

A repeat seems unlikely given the turnaround in the county’s fortunes. The captain offers words such as “confidence” and “unity” in his softly spoken voice but, with that elevated optimism comes expectation.

“There is always expectation there and huge interest in Tipperary. Maybe there will be a bit of added interest after the league campaign, especially with the first match being against Cork. That is going to take on a life of its own. No-one will remember who won the league that day.”

People, he adds, judge Tipp on their championships and they didn’t exactly rest on their laurels after that defeat of Galway last month. Within 24 hours the entire panel had arrived in Portugal for a week-long training camp.

Aside from the obvious physical benefits, the trip allowed players young and not so young to bond as a team while serving to highlight once again Liam Sheedy’s methodical preparations in his first year in charge.

Cork’s campaign has, of course, been more haphazard thanks to the off-the-field controversies and Seán Óg Ó hAilpín raised the stakes ahead of next month’s meeting still more by adding that a number of Cork “careers are on the line” against Tipp.

But Ormonde dismisses the notion that the fires need stoking ahead of this most emblematic of local rivalries.

“Cork are always dangerous, whether they are on the back foot or if there is nothing being said in Cork. In the championship, everyone forgets about everything once that ball is thrown in. That will be the case in Páirc Uí Chaoímh. The only thing people will remember is the scoreboard at the end of the game.”

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