As I muse and read the Tipperary local Newspapers, as a Tipperary supporter living outside the county for many years, I like many Tipperary supporters, must ask myself the above question.
First of all I need to pay tribute to Michael Ryan, who has given nearly 20 years to Tipperary Hurling, both as a player and also in his management roles. Having retired as manager, I must ask the question do we the supporters really appreciate the amount of work and commitment this man has given to Tipperary Hurling? We must remember this commitment is on top of holding down full time employment and rearing a family. I sincerely say “Thank you Michael, for the wonderful years of joy and excitement you brought to us. And all the wonderful games that this Tipperary team were involved in that made us so proud over the years”. We won All Irelands, which was wonderful, but we forget about all the wonderful games that we lost by only a whisker that we were also proud of. We all know the margins between winning and loosing are very small. I certainly thank Michael Ryan for his contribution to Tipperary Hurling and wish him well in whatever path he follows in life in the future.
So where are we at now as regards Tipperary Hurling and this is a big question? Sure we will listen to the doom and gloom of the critics who seem to forget that we are all human and subject to the ups ands downs of life. I hope that the powers that be, will look at the present situation in a rational manner and take their time to put in a proper workable structure for the future of Tipperary Hurling.
I feel that we still have a group of very talented players in Tipperary and the recent under 21 hurling team is also exposing new talent to add to the future hopes. I really think that our players are as good as the players in any other county, but there are a few gaping deficits that I see. Fr. Fogarty recently stated that we are not physical enough and this perhaps is the case, but I feel there are two basic fundamentals also missing from the present Tipperary team and they are.... CONCENTRATION and each player's UTTER BELIEF IN THEIR OWN ABILITY.
I had the privalage to see, who I felt was the greatest player of all time, the famous Christy Ring in action. As I said that is “my view” and I don't want to cast any aspiration on all the other players we've seen over the many years, especially in Tipperary. What was special about Ring was he was a super skillful player, but also he made the following statement on many occasions..... “To be top of your game you must 1. Do the simple things well, 2. You must concentrate on the ball even when it is in the refs hand, and 3. You must have massive belief in your own ability or you're going no where”.
Attending many recent Tipperary games and watching our skillful hurlers, I believe at least half of the team have not enough belief in their own ability and many times they lack concentration. It might be the case that these issues stick out at me as having worked in the mental health area all my life. Another reason is that I have been obsessed by Christy Ring, I have read and studied every article and book I could find about him. I firmly believe before “Psychology” was a buzz word, that Christy had a huge psychological impression on the great Cork teams that he played with. If we, in Tipperary, are to have any chance with the bunch of players we still have, a massive amount of work needs to be done on the areas I have just mentioned.
The other burning issue at this time is the future Hurling management position that is up for grabs at present. We have to ask ourselves looking around other counties why inter county managers only last for a short period. Now I know it is a huge commitment, but there are exceptions of course like the great Brian Cody and we must ask why? Well it's my humble opinion that the most important aspect of management is “man” management. We have thirty or forty different personalities making up a team and it is a skill in itself to gel that group and be able to deal with the problems that would exist from time to time. Again it is my view that what Tipperary needs at this time, is a good man manager, perhaps he might not have been a past Tipperary Player but he has all the skills to manage and encourage good management practices. Under the guidence of this Manager and with the guidence of the county board he would have experienced coaches and other experienced back up team to support him.
It would be very important that a strategy be developed going forward that the whole management team would buy into, and in turn the team would also buy into.
Although I having been living outside my native county for most of my life the GAA and Tipperary hurling has been very close to me and my family's hearts. The enjoyment has been immense and I often reminisce on all the wonderful days that Tipperary teams have given to me.
I therefore felt that I had to put my thoughts on paper and perhaps some people will think they are mad thoughts and that's fine with me. I only hope that Tipperary hurling goes forward from strength to strength and wish the County Board the best of luck in their endevours to find a good management structure for the future.
11 Seaview Park,