Thurles Sarsfields captain Pádraic Maher pictured with former County Board chairman Michael Bourke following the Blues' fourth successive county final win in October.
Tipperary's senior hurling clubs have been busy in recent weeks appointing managers and coaches as preparations for the 2018 championship have ramped up a gear or three. And, one particularly eye-catching appointment is that of Séamus Quinn who has taken over as Thurles Sarsfields manager - please read on for our profile of the key men involved in all twenty-eight senior clubs.
The 2018 Tipperary Water County Senior Hurling Championship will, once again, be comprised of a Roinn I (sixteen teams, four groups of four) and Roinn II (twelve teams, three groups of four) with the seedings for the draw on Monday, January 29th based on the 2017 performances of each respective club.
ROINN I TOP SEEDS
The top seeds in Roinn I are Loughmore-Castleiney, Clonoulty-Rossmore, Thurles Sarsfields and Éire Óg Annacarty.
Thurles Sarsfields are chasing an extraorindary five in-a-row this season, but must do so without inspirational manager Tommy Maher and coach Paddy McCormack. Both men have stepped aside in the defending champions' camp and have been replaced by manager Séamus Quinn, coach Eoin Kelly (Mullinahone), strength and conditioning coach Dave Moriarty (Limerick) and selector Tony O'Meara. Quinn, of course, guided the Blues to the Munster crown in 2012 and is well capable of delivering yet another county title for Sars.
Declan Laffan returns as manager of Loughmore-Castleiney and is likely to be joined on the management ticket by Pat McGrath - Loughmore-Castleiney lost out in 2017 to Borris-Ileigh when they suffered a narrow defeat in the quarter-finals (1-17 to 1-18).
West champions Clonoulty-Rossmore also progressed as far as the last eight in 2017 before suffering defeat at the hands of Drom & Inch (1-14 to 2-26). Former player John Devane, who has plenty of management experience with the Tipperary under-21s and Thurles CBS, has taken up the reins alongside selectors Paddy Bourke and Jason Forristal while Andy O’Connor (Thurles) will work on the strength and conditioning of the players.
Ollie Kelly has been re-appointed as Éire Óg Annacarty manager for the 2018 season - Éire Óg had a very encouraging campaign in 2017 when topping a group involving Burgess, Killenaule and Mullinahone before beating Mullinahone once more in the quarter-finals. Ultimately Éire Óg lost out to Thurles Sarsfields in the semi-finals (0-18 to 0-27), but there is no doubting the fact that Kelly has plenty of material to work with.
ROINN I SECOND SEEDS
Manager Johnny Kelly (Portumna, Galway), selectors Philip Kenny, John McGrath and Philip Maher and S&C coach Angelo Walsh return to guide the fortunes of Borris-Ileigh in 2018. Borris-Ileigh did lose the 2017 county final to Thurles Sarsfields (0-11 to 1-24), but the North champions enjoyed a terrific year and the memory of their divisional decider victory over Nenagh Éire Óg (2-19 to 0-18) will be cherished for some time to come. Indeed, Borris-Ileigh are one side capable to making even more progress this year.
In 2017 Drom & Inch endured a mixed year before losing out to Borris-Ileigh in the county semi-finals (1-12 to 1-16). The club has elected to appoint former senior hurler Séamus Kennedy as manager while Tom Kenneally, Lorcan Looby and Paul Stapleton will act as selectors. Meanwhile Mullagh's John Mullins has been appointed coach - the Galway man is a noted coach education tutor in Connacht and comes with a significant reputation.
Kilruane MacDonagh’s presented champions Thurles Sarsfields with a significant fright in the 2017 quarter-finals when the Blues required extra-time to prevail (3-26 to 1-22). The MacDonagh's will be led once more this season by manager Liam O'Shea while Ballinahinch's Cormac McGrath succeeds his brother Shane as coach to the team - Cormac has coached numerous Tipperary underage teams and also guided Mary Immaculate College to a famous Fitzgibbon Cup title alongside Jamie Wall (Cork) in 2017.
Mullinahone lost out at the quarter-final stage in 2017 to Éire Óg Annacarty (1-15 to 2-13) and following that defeat Paul Curran stepped aside as manager. And, Curran has been replaced by Kildare man Fintan O'Connor who is a significant name on the coaching circuit. O'Connor was formerly involved with Derek McGrath and the Waterford senior hurling team while he is also the manager of the Kerry senior hurling team.
ROINN I THIRD SEEDS
Upperchurch-Drombane were incredibly unlucky to miss out on the knock-out stage of the county championship last season before losing the Mid Tipperary Senior Hurling Championship final to Thurles Sarsfields by a point (2-10 to 1-14). Manager John Ryan and coach Séamus Gleeson (Kiladangan) extracted a series of top class performances out of the team in 2017 and both have returned for the 2018 campaign.
Club stalwart Dinny Hogan will manage the Portroe senior hurlers in 2018 alongside coach Tommy Guilfoyle (Feakle, Clare). Portroe struggled to locate their best form in 2017 and managed to maintain their Roinn I status courtesy of a draw with Clonoulty-Rossmore (1-19 to 0-22). Hogan will be hoping to inspire his charges to greater deeds this season.
Sunday Game star and former Kilkenny legend Eddie Brennan has been recruited in a consultant training role and replaces Thurles man Paddy Moore with Killenaule - prior to this season Kenneth Browne managed the Killenaule side for three years, but Browne has been succeeded by Declan Ryan this term - Declan is an ex senior player with the Killenaule club and not the former manager of the Tipperary senior hurling team from Clonoulty-Rossmore. Killenaule missed out on the knock-out stages of the county championship in 2017 and also lost the South final to Carrick Swans. So, considering the talent available to the Robins they will be hoping to make a more significant impact this year.
John Fitzgerald (Na Piarsaigh, Limerick) has been appointed as Nenagh Éire Óg manager. Fitzgerald previously coached Nenagh from 2013-2016 under manager Liam Heffernan when the Blues appeared in two county finals (2013 and 2015). Fitzgerald will work alongside noted strength and conditioning coach Darragh Droog (Limerick). Éire Óg limped through the 2017 campaign and despite beating Carrick Swans by thirty-three points the Blues suffered heavy defeats at the hands of Kilruane and Thurles Sarsfields in the county championship before losing out to Borris-Ileigh in the North final.
ROINN I FOURTH SEEDS
Although Kiladangan progressed to the 2016 county final they struggled to find their form in 2017 and found themselves knocked out of the county championship during the group phase before losing a North semi-final to Nenagh Éire Óg (0-15 to 0-19). Manager Dan Hackett and Gavin Keary (Galway) have since moved on and have been replaced by manager Gary Byrne (Holycross-Ballycahill), selector Karl Hogan and noted Laois coach Arien Delaney who guided Camross to significant success.
Toomevara enjoyed a really encouraging season in 2017 when the Greyhounds won the Séamus Ó Riain Cup in great style and duly booked their place in Roinn I. Joint-managers Denis Kelly and Tommy Dunne have done some great work with an emerging bunch of players and no one will want to draw Toome as a fourth seed in their respective group.
As of yet the management teams for Carrick Swans and Roscrea have not been revealed. In 2017 the Swans were managed by Derek Hogan and coached by Niall O'Donnell while last year Roscrea where managed by Ger Fitzpatrick and coached by Michael Scully.
Similarly in Roinn II the Ballingarry and Moycarkey-Borris management teams remain to be confirmed, but other than that there are plenty of interesing appointments.
Ballina have appointed Jim McGrath as manager alongside selectors Mike Sheehy and Dave Quinlan while Burgess have plumbed for former Kilruane MacDonagh's man and noted referee Pat Gibson as manager - Hughie Ryan and Paul Hogan will act as selectors under Gibson while Adare's Paul Keane will coach the Burgess side.
Borrisokane's Vincent McKenna has returned at the helm in Clonakenny - Vincent coached Clonakenny to a famous county intermediate title in 2015 and will work alongside selectors Rodger Quigley and Mark Talbot.
Michael Ferncombe will manage Holycross-Ballycahill once more in 2017 alongside selectors Tossy Fogarty, Brendan Ryan and Adrian O'Keeffe. Holycoss-Ballycahill came undone against Roscrea (0-20 to 3-14) in the 2017 Séamus Ó Riain Cup semi-finals, but must be fancied to make a big impact on the competition this year.
Jim Mullen, Wes Morrissey, Damien McBride and John Lillis (Thurles Sarsfields) remain in place as the management team to guide the fortunes of JK Bracken’s while Meelick-Eyrecourt's Mark Dunne has been appointed to the top job in Lorrha-Dorrha - Dunne comes with a significant reputation as a coach. Indeed, Dunne was the manager of the Galway senior Camogie team in 2017.
Mark Harrington returns as manager of Newport alongside selectors Paddy Ryan and Pádraig Malone. Martin Maher (Borris-Ileigh) has moved on as coach, but has been replaced by Paul Sexton who previously worked with Éire Óg Annacarty. Kevin Quinlan (Kilruane MacDonagh's) has also joined the management team as a strength and conditioning coach.
Thurles Sarsfields' Garry Mernagh has taken over as manager-coach with Silvermines. Mernagh succeeds John Fitzgerald with the 'Mines. Mernagh, of course, coached Thurles Sarsfields to a Munster title in 2012 and also enjoyed a significant stint with Upperchurch-Drombane. The 'Mines are sure to benefit from the experience of the Thurles man.
Toomevara's Eoin Brislane returns for a second season in charge of a highly-talented and dedicated Templederry Kenyons team. Templederry suffered cruel heartache in the 2017 - they lost a Séamus Ó Riain Cup quarter-final to Roscrea (2-19 to 4-19) and also agonisingly lost out to eventual champions Borris-Ileigh in a North semi-final. As a result Templederry will be one of the favourites to earn promotion to Roinn I this season.
2017 county intermediate champions St Mary’s Clonmel will make for a novel addition to the senior hurling ranks in 2018 and will do so with manager Michael Ryan (Waterford) and coach Tony Shelly guiding their fortunes. It will be very interesting to see how St Mary's progress especially given the level of underage talent pouring through the club in recent years.
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