Eamon O’Shea: There is 
desire and resilience there, a good 
backbone

Eamon O’Shea: There is 
desire and resilience there, a good 
backbone
Colm Keys
Published 13/08/2014 | 00:00

Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea insists that he has ‘absolute belief’ in his team and never doubted they would rise again. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Tipperary manager Eamon O’Shea insists that he has ‘absolute belief’ in his team and never doubted they would rise again. Photo: Diarmuid Greene / SPORTSFILE
Eamon O’Shea allowed himself a gentle punch in the air after Seamus Callanan had scythed through the Galway defence for his and Tipperary’s third goal to tie down their evening of redemption in Thurles last month.

Was it relief at the prospect of a first Championship win as a manager just minutes away? Was it the pressure of a county lifting that drew his fist to the sky?

“There was an element that we had worked really hard,” he explained. “‘Bonner’ Maher had stopped the defender going across, Seamie (Callanan) had worked across and blocked the ball down. We had worked on that for three sessions in a row.

“We had worked on stopping the defenders from clearing the ball and we had 30 seconds where we kept the ball in there. We had worked on putting the hurley across, forcing them across the line, putting the hurley in to break the ball and it turned out we got the goal from it.

“For me (the punch) was as much, ‘if you work hard at it the goal will come’.

“Of course I was relieved, we were still in the Championship. But the way the goal was scored was more important.”

It is the explanation of a coach more than a manager and in some respects it is from such technical work that he still draws the greatest satisfaction from.

For three years with Liam Sheedy his role allowed him to work on things like that and he thrived.

For the last two years so much more has weighed heavily on him. Management, he says, has brought a different “fulfilment” but from coaching he still derives the greatest pleasure.

“It’s a different framework. As a coach you are thinking about the structure, working with the players, sometimes closely on an individual basis, talking a lot with them. That’s really rewarding.

“To me, the technical aspect is still the most rewarding when you see them doing stuff on the pitch.

Load

“When you are a manager, you are relieved that you win because you are carrying the unseen work of a lot of people – Mick (Ryan), the physios, the doctor, everybody. So you are carrying a bigger load,” he reflected.

When Sheedy, O’Shea and Ryan left in 2010 they cited 16-hour days between their working and sporting lives as central to their decision.

By committing to return, O’Shea and Ryan knew they would have to be even more organised and efficient with their time. Their situation is unique, with the three members of the management team in different provinces, O’Shea in Galway, Ryan in Thurles and coach Paudie O’Neill in Dublin.

“I have to partition eight hours a day when I don’t have to think about Tipperary. Mick is the same,” said O’Shea.

“I can’t afford to be thinking about Tipperary all day. I have to structure my life because if I don’t I would be in trouble, I couldn’t work.”

As a coach and now a manager he has always empowered players to make their own decisions and that philosophy hasn’t changed.

“It’s a question of whether you put structure before instinct or instinct before structure,” he said. “Hurling is such a quick game and it is difficult to theorise about it.

“I like instinct. Players are encouraged to move, encouraged to solve their own puzzles. Some days it works, some days it doesn’t. But I think instinct has a part to play in a hurling game.

“There’s only so much you can do for players, you have to allow them to play a little bit and make sure they have the confidence to do it.

“We do try to encourage where they should be and where they shouldn’t be, but it has to come from within.”

Picking up the pieces after the Limerick defeat was a challenge but morale was strong before the game so it was never going to fragment completely, he insisted. And there was 2010 to draw from again.

“We were okay, even though we got beaten by Limerick. Similar to 2010, we were okay. We had gone through a lot, having played in an All-Ireland final the year before. We were strong.

“It’s unlikely you will recover if you are in any way faltering. I did draw something from 2010.”

O’Shea has managed to unlock the puzzle of Callanan’s form this season to the point where he is now such a critical influence with 5-36 from four Championship games in 2014.

Range

“Seamus was outstanding for us in 2009 and 2010. Consistency is what you are looking from a really top player over a range of games,” said O’Shea.

“What he has brought to his game is consistency and on any given day you would expect him to play well. He was a young player in 2008, 2009 and 2010. All young players have their ups and downs. What he is looking at now is more consistency in his game.

“He has scored a lot and worked hard for us when we were struggling in the League. I know there was a hiccup or two last year but he has been working towards this for the last 18 months.”

Despite so many agonising big-game defeats, O’Shea’s faith in the players has been unrelenting. Even against Galway he admits he saw something coming.

“I wasn’t as concerned as others but I was wondering where we would get the break from,” he recalled.

“The break came from the desire. Where does that come from? I would think it comes from the year that we had. There’s resilience there, there is good backbone there.

“I just absolutely believe in them. There’s no relative, no caveat, I absolutely believe in the team.”

He has found himself paraphrasing those words more than once over the last two seasons.

Now, though, there is so much more substance to it.

Irish Independent

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