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Tipp thoroughbreds can perform on any ground - Sheedy

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Liam Sheedy

Liam Sheedy

SPORTSFILE

Liam Sheedy

Liam Sheedy sees the question coming from a mile off. Rarely is a Tipperary interview conducted these days without some reference to it. No successful defence of an All-Ireland title since 1965, six attempts that have fallen short in the meantime.

But he's waiting. And when it comes, right on cue he has his answer. No issue with him and back-to-back. As manager, he has already done it, leaving as an All-Ireland winner in 2010, picking up from where he left off in 2019.

"I don't know where this back-to-back is coming from!" he laughs.

On Sunday, they meet their 2019 Munster final conquerors Limerick in a semi-final, one of the teams that, in the eyes of many, will adapt to the conditions better than most. Curiously, Tipperary aren't seen in that context, as a 'winter' team, hurling's ultimate Flat racers.

It's a broad and indeed crude assumption, complimentary in one respect that they adapt better to the quicker conditions prevalent in summer than those they will meet in the coming weeks. Wimbledon v Roland-Garros.

But Sheedy applies his own basic logic, that good strikers of the ball should make it happen in any conditions and, in that respect, Tipp aren't looking over their shoulders.

"The bottom line is that the ball can travel long distances, whether there is rain in the sky or sun," he said. "The way we can transfer the ball from one part of the field to the other, we have real top quality strikers and irrespective of the weather we have the ability to do really nice things with the ball in hand. The challenge for us is to get the ball often enough.

Quality

"We still have a good quality of striker in our team, both in terms of the tried and trusted guys and the younger guys that are coming through. There should be adaptability to any particular day or conditions. That is going to be really important. We have that within the squad. I couldn't speak highly enough of the way the lads have gone about their business over the last few weeks."

Sheedy, who this week confirmed that he was leaving Bank of Ireland to pursue other interests, came close to taking over from Páraic Duffy as the GAA's director-general in 2018, so he could well have been one of the GAA's guiding hands through the pandemic, as it grapples with return-to-play protocols, health and safety, the viability of a championship and pressing financial challenges.

On reflection, maybe he's glad to be part of the championship and not overseeing it from that position.

"I must be the luckiest man on Earth, that's all I can say," he laughed. "No, you would feel for Tom (Ryan) and it's really difficult in any association. People and members are always looking for certainty and, as an organisation, we thrive on certainty. But we're in a time when we can't give certainty because the thing is always moving and moving at a pace. Overall, the GAA has been superb, but it has been a difficult time for John (Horan) and for Tom (Ryan) and I think they have tried to make the decisions to give themselves the best chance of a good outcome."

Managing a squad in the current environment presents obvious challenges though. Training is escapism for him and his players for an hour and a half three times a week. It's his job, he says, to make sure it is the safest place they can be.

"When we come in we try and remove ourselves from everything in the outside world and really enjoy the hour and a half you might be on the pitch training," he reflected.

"But you have got to ensure that's a very safe environment so we have very strict protocols. There have been nights when three or four guys didn't come to training because they might have had a sore throat or a runny nose. It's just zero tolerance around that stuff. We don't take any risks. We've had to have various players tested from time to time to ensure that everything's OK.

"At any stage, you could become a close contact or a positive case and if you're a close contact now you miss the match against Limerick. That's how tight this thing is. I would really hope the general public would be accepting of that. These players are trying to do everything they can but ultimately they're teachers, workers, they do have to operate their lives outside of hurling.

"It isn't life or death, it isn't what puts food on the table. That piece of it is trying, with all the distractions going on, to allow them to come in and enjoy their time training. It's what we really focused on and it's my responsibility to ensure that the environment I set up is really safe, where they don't feel at risk when they come in."


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