Eamon O’Shea interview


Eamon O’Shea
By Jackie Cahill
NEW Tipperary senior hurling manager Eamon O’Shea addressed a wide range of issues when he met with journalists at the Horse and Jockey last Tuesday evening (December 11).
County Board PRO Ger Ryan facilitated a questions and answers session with Kilruane MacDonagh’s clubman O’Shea, coach Michael Ryan (Upperchurch-Drombane) and Paudie O’Neill (St Mary’s, Clonmel).
O’Shea discussed his panel for the 2013 Allianz National Hurling League season and the challenge that faces Tipperary as they look to bounce back from last August’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat against Kilkenny.
O’Shea, head of Economics at NUI Galway, was first asked what exactly attracted him to the role.
O’Shea, of course, served as coach alongside former manager Liam Sheedy from 2008-2010, a period that culminated with the last of Tipperary’s 26 All-Ireland senior successes.
O’Shea smiled: “The only reason I’m back is because there was a vacancy. If there wasn’t a vacancy I wouldn’t be here. I’ve been through it before, I knew what was involved. It was easy for me to make a decision, yes or no, I had full information. I can’t claim that I didn’t know what the job entailed. Obviously commitment to Tipperary was a big thing. I would have kept, even when I was away, an ongoing interest in what was going on but also in the GAA generally so it seemed logical enough when I was asked that we’d see what would happen.”
O’Shea is anxious to see the Tipperary team in 2013 playing “to its potential.”
If that can be achieved, the ultimate goal is to regain the Liam MacCarthy Cup but O’Shea insists that Tipp have slipped back into the chasing pack, and have some ground to make up on 2012 finalists Galway and champions Kilkenny.
Reflecting upon the heavy 18-point defeat to Kilkenny, O’Shea said: “Sometimes games take on a life of their own and hurling is a game where you can lose by 17 or 18 points. You could say in 2010, was it an accurate reflection when we lost to Cork by ten points? Yeah, it was on the day. Was it an accurate reflection of the team? No. They showed that three months later. Some days you’ll get a result that is not an accurate reflection of the ability of the team but it’s an accurate reflection of the game that was played. Tipp were in that game (Kilkenny) until half-time, they were leading at half-time. The second half went a particularly different way and the team ended up getting beaten. But is that an accurate reflection of the team and the belief that we have in them? No. The reality at the moment is that we are behind two teams – the data tells us that we’re behind Kilkenny, and we’re behind Galway. We have to catch up.”
Effective time management is sure to be one of the key issues that faces O’Shea during his reign in charge of the Tipperary senior hurlers, as he looks to juggle work commitments, travelling and managing the team.
He explained: “I’ve been travelling since I was 18. I’ve been away; I’ve never lived at home. It’s a long time ago so it’s built into my DNA. The important thing is, I’ve got good people around me. The important thing is that you build a system. The structure is everything. Although I know you guys like to talk about the manager, the structure is the key element and the management team and what you have around you is absolutely key to being successful. Every successful team will tell you that. “Once you have that set up life’s a lot easier.”
O’Shea spoke passionately and with typical enthusiasm about the job that lies ahead.
He met with his players for the first time in a collective sense on December 8, with squad members currently working on personalised strength and conditioning programmes, before they return to the hard on-pitch slog at Dr. Morris Park in January.
And O’Shea admitted that losing so heavily to Kilkenny, while looking on in a supporter’s role, hurt him.
He added: “Whether you’re on the sideline or in the stand, it’s not a nice feeling seeing a team getting beaten, particularly when you know that it’s not really a reflection of their ability. It’s not nice, particularly in Tipperary, where hurling means quite a bit here. It means more, sometimes, than life itself. Everyone’s affected when the team doesn’t perform the way we want it to perform. I understand that. It’s important therefore that the team understands that. It means so much to us, it’s deep set into us. Some call it tradition but it’s a bit more than tradition – it’s part of our life. And therefore, we’re bound to be hurt when we lose. I was no different.”
Looking to the future, O’Shea is convinced that he has the raw materials at his disposal to make Tipperary competitive again.
After all, the Premier County will start the 2013 campaign as reigning Munster senior hurling champions, and looking to annex the provincial crown for a third successive year, a feat not achieved since 1989.
He added: “There’s a universal formula for success – part of that is high work-rate, high work ethic, confidence, leadership – all of that is what teams take on board. We would look at these issues and try to see where the team is at. We haven’t been on the pitch really to know where they’re at but it would be our goal to look at fundamental work ethic, if you have that you can begin to be competitive. That’s where I’d be looking forward in terms of the team, in terms of having that strong, strong work ethic, and see where that takes us.”
And O’Shea is delighted that the Premier County’s longest-serving players – Brendan Cummins, Eoin Kelly, John O’Brien and Lar Corbett – are back on board for another season. The four are all survivors from the 2001 All-Ireland winning squad.
O’Shea said: “When you’re on a management team, you’re all the time hoping that you’ve got the best players available to you and certainly, with all of those players (experienced) available to us and competing for places, it’s good. All of the things that experienced players give us, we have. I’m very happy that all of those players are there, really happy.”

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