Michael Ryan: Were we championship ready? No, we weren’t

Michael Ryan: Were we championship ready? No, we weren’t


Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Larry Ryan

“It was almost as if the bubble burst. The honeymoon ended.” You get a sense Michael Ryan has walked around that defeat a few times, had a look at it from all sides.

Michael Ryan: “We’re looking to move up the gears considerably”


Munster SHC quarter-final


Sunday: Semple Stadium, 4pm 


Referee: James Owens (Wexford) 

TV: RTÉ Two Live

Lifted it up and felt the weight of it. Saw frightening things he needed his players to see. And things they shouldn’t stare at.

He has lads on board like John McGrath and Dan McCormack and Seamus Kennedy who had no acquaintance with setbacks.

No need to drown out the sweet hum of confidence with alarm bells.

“Number one, we’re not unaccustomed to losing matches. We’re not Kilkenny. We have lost our share of matches. I’ve been involved in them, as a player, selector and now manager.

“We got a very stern lesson about what flatness can do to you and how it might look. And we certainly don’t want to see it again.”

Never confuse a single defeat with a final defeat, is what F Scott Fitzgerald urged.

Even if it is a league final defeat, presumably.

“If that game came in August or July or the 3rd of September… it’s not like you have a winter of discontent and you do so much navel gazing. It takes you the whole winter to get over it.

“This is different. Yeah, it was a loss. We didn’t want it. But we had exactly four weeks to get over it from the time the final whistle blew in Limerick. And our sights immediately turned to the Munster Championship and the start of summer.

“Were we championship ready? No, we weren’t. The league transcends winter hurling and then into summer hurling, all in the middle of a very tight hectic schedule.

“We simply weren’t ready for the challenge that Galway brought.

“And Galway, in comparison, were absolutely 100% ready. They were playing to a completely different beat to what we were able to reach on the day.

“We’re looking to move up the gears considerably, as is every other team in the country.

“The Tipperary performance, the levels we were at, on league final day, versus where we need to be to beat Cork in Thurles, will need to be different. And everyone understands that.”

And yet, as Michael Ryan stands on the cusp of summer, when you look at that defeat, from a certain angle, catching just the right light, it might hang nicely on the wall of a dressing room.

He won’t agree it has made his job easier, these past four weeks. “Absolutely not.”

But it allowed the rollout of Operation Narrative Reset. Codename: We’re Not Kilkenny.

“We could do no wrong, which was never the case. We live in mere mortal land. We make plenty of mistakes. We’re always trying to improve, but we’re not the finished article, and we never professed to be the finished article.

“The minute you have that (All-Ireland) title, people look on you as if you are the new force in hurling. That maybe we would become Kilkennyesque and go on to a level of dominance.

“That’s probably one of the most difficult things we’ve got to try and manage. Not so much in the group but outside the group. And a lot of that is outside our control.

“People write up winners too soon. To be fair, there is only one Kilkenny. Nobody else has managed to achieve what these guys have achieved.

“Number one, we’ve all failed to win the bloody thing with any degree of regularity. So really and truly all comparisons are about Kilkenny.

“And to be fair, none of us, and I say this about every single one of us in the chasing pack, in terms of the success Kilkenny have had, nobody has cracked it. Not one. And we don’t profess to being any different to that.

“I think the greatest pitfall for us is perception, that you’re better than you are. And that somehow ye (the media) try to play out some matches without ever a ball being struck.”

And so, thanks to the 3-21 Galway struck, Tipp can reach for the sky again without having their head stuck out the sunroof.

“And you know what, we haven’t given up the dream of trying to be successful at all.

“What we really need to do is focus on the game in front of us, and we’ve no intention of doing anything other than that.”

Focusing on just that, Ryan can hold a tune with anyone singing the glories of Munster battle and the next opponent.

“Anyone can beat anyone in Munster. We love it. The Munster championship is a fantastic competition. It’s timeless. It conjures all sorts of images of fantastic men, absolute legends and all these Cú Chulainn-like figures doing battle all over Munster.

“I honestly genuinely believe that anything that happens in Munster will not shock me. Because it is a very finely balanced competition.

“Last year, I was telling you exactly the same thing. Limerick had beaten us in two of the last three meetings. This happens. Those aren’t fake results. And that was us trying to do our best and Limerick trying to do their best.

“I think Munster Championship is a little bit different. You’ve got tremendous rivalry. Every game is a kind of cup game, a derby game. It can throw up the most fantastic games and fantastic results. I could be on the wrong end of one. But that’s the lure of the Munster Championship, anything can happen.

“Our last meeting (in the league) with Cork in Páirc Uí Rinn was a fabulous game. A real tight game. There was a real climax to the finish of that game. We were trying to press and press and we couldn’t. It was Cork who got the couple of scores to win. So we are under no illusions.

“This is a very fine Cork side. They’ve carefully added more players. They are a stronger panel, I believe, than last year. And I think they’ll be happy with their league campaign in terms of what they wanted to achieve.

“For us, this is an absolutely huge test. It couldn’t be any bigger than Cork coming to town. This is a Cork team who’ve gotten a fair bit of flak in 2016. And what better motivation. If you keep kicking someone, you’ll get a reaction, so I believe Cork are actually in very good shape coming up to Thurles.”

Then, a funny moment. Brief confusion.

“We were Munster Champions last year as well… Aren’t I right in saying that…?”

You could read it lots of ways. Sensibly: The split-second brain freeze of a tired man facing a grilling after a long day in a responsible job.

Mischievously: A hint to the devalued currency of provincial success. Or you could conclude that Michael Ryan is a practising preacher, that he has reached the place he needs his players to be in.

He has put last year completely out of his mind.

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