Ryan enjoying Tipperary’s rocky road to redemption

Ryan enjoying Tipperary’s rocky road to redemption
Colm Keys
Published 12/08/2014 | 00:00

‘We’re in the results business, the fairness or the unfairness of it is that the Tipp public demand a team they can follow,’ says the Premier County’s assistant manager Michael Ryan, right, pictured alongside Eamon O’Shea. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
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‘We’re in the results business, the fairness or the unfairness of it is that the Tipp public demand a team they can follow,’ says the Premier County’s assistant manager Michael Ryan, right, pictured alongside Eamon O’Shea. Picture credit: Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE
One point. That’s all it would have taken to thrust Tipperary over the edge and down the cliff face. One blink and they were gone.

When Tipperary’s assistant manager Michael Ryan reflects on the twists and turns of the season, his mind is instantly drawn back to that Saturday evening in Semple Stadium when a firm Galway hand was placed on their collective necks and they were dangled were high above the ledge.

That they could extricate themselves and deliver a precious first win for the current management team to ignite their season was liberation that Ryan sensed was always within.

The pressure had been building and the importance of what they did then hasn’t dimmed now as they stand just 70 minutes from renewing their final rivalry with Kilkenny.

“You cannot underestimate a win,” he reflected. “It’s what these guys live for. It meant a huge amount to beat Galway. It was a surreal last 20 minutes.

“We were six points down. Could we have taken a seven- or eight-point deficit? I doubt it, to be honest. It was right there on the edge at that time, I think if we had blinked we wouldn’t be here.”

RELIEF

The sense of relief was felt as much by the management on the night.

“It was huge for this management team to get that first championship win, it was becoming an issue,” he acknowledged.

“The facts were if we didn’t win we would have been the first management team to have lost all their championship games in two years. It’s not the kind of thing we set out to achieve!”

But above all they were delighted to give the Tipperary public a result instead of just a performance.

“We’re in the results business, the fairness or the unfairness of it is that the Tipp public demand a team they can follow,” said Ryan.

“It’s not that they expect to win with every team that goes out but they want to cheer for a team that plays in the right way and brings a huge amount of competition to try and win each and every game.

“I think the relief you would have seen in the Stadium the evening we beat Galway was all about that. We chased a game that could easily have slipped away from us and the performance for the final 20 minutes was almost perfect,” said Ryan.

“It gave us a huge sense of satisfaction and obviously relief. It gave something to the fans. It said that this is what we want, that we were willing to take the risks and be beaten. But once you play, you have to play.

“That was a sickening loss to Kilkenny in the dying minutes of this year’s league final, having played right up there at a very high level in the league final. It felt like a little bit of deja vu.”

Ryan sees similarities with 2010 when they recovered through the qualifiers to win a first All-Ireland title in nine years but the scale of defeat in Munster was so much different to when they lost to Cork four years ago.

“Our eyes were wide open much earlier this time. We knew the challenge we were facing when we played Limerick.

“It wasn’t a collapse, Limerick came and beat us with a few very good scores late on. We just didn’t take the few chances we created after the Limerick scores.”

The differences were marginal but the wait for the next match really challenged them. “It was a difficult five weeks before the next game, and for anyone who’s knocked out in the first round it’s a horrible time.

“But if you feel sorry for yourself in this game you’ll be out quicker than you think,” he said.

“You always take a couple of days to re-assess and figure out exactly where we went wrong, what is the scale of it and what happened here,” he said.

“The reality is we didn’t play to the highest level that we could against Limerick, nor were we allowed to, but we were narrowly beaten in a very good game.”

Ryan came into inter-county hurling at a time when the rivalry between Tipperary and Cork was at one of its most intense levels with the 1991 Munster final and replay among the greatest games between them.

“They were our nemesis. They were contesting All-Ireland finals against Galway and Kilkenny. It’s what we grew up listening to, Tipp and Cork. The Holy Grail was to get to a Munster final and play Cork, and that’s no disrespect to any other county.

“When I was growing up they were an ever present menace. To witness the breakthrough in ’87 and the few years after it was absolutely fantastic.

“I wouldn’t underestimate the later achievements too, going down to play Cork and beat them in ’08. That was huge, that was unheard of, it was a rarity,” recalled Ryan.

“It’s the jersey, it’s everything about them and playing them in Croke Park will be unusual and special, but ultimately it will be a hurling match against our old enemy.”

Irish Independent

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