Tipperary senior hurling manager Michael Ryan.
On Saturday evening at Semple Stadium, Thurles the Tipperary hurlers saw off the challenge of Wexford (3-21 to 1-21) in round three of the Allianz National Hurling League (division 1A). The Model County out-scored the Premier County 0-7 to 0-1 during the closing stages before a late Patrick Maher goal sealed the win for the home side and manager Michael Ryan admitted afterward that he was relieved.
“We are relieved to be honest,” Michael Ryan admitted.
“I thought it was a cracking game. It probably did not come to life in the first half - although we got off to a poor start. We had a pretty decent twenty-minute period in that first half and looked reasonably comfortable at half-time. But, look it, that script went out the window as soon as we came back out. Wexford started to impose themselves on the game and I thought that it finished out in a great half of hurling for both sides,” Michael Ryan said.
And, although it was suggested to the Upperchurch-Drombane man that, perhaps, Wexford’s held a superior level of fitness over the Tipperary lads Michael Ryan was not prepared to accept it as a ready-made excuse.
“It would not surprise me if Wexford had a bit more done than us - they certainly looked to be in really good shape out there. They were a team who were two for two before tonight and, clearly, these lads had their tails up. I think they are a team who are in great shape, to be fair to them,” Michael Ryan explained.
“I would be a bit critical of us to be honest. I thought we were a bit complacent at times in that second half. Maybe some of it is down to us (management) too. We made some moves in trying to expand the panel, but if it had back-fired on us tonight we wouldn’t be thanked. The two points looked to be in pretty good shape at one point in time, but they looked in terrible shape up until the last minute until Bonner (Patrick Maher) worked a little bit of magic at the front end. And, to be fair to Daragh Mooney I thought he pulled off a great save at the other end. I mean that’s a six-point swing and we won by six. So, you have to credit Wexford in all of this.”
Commenting specifically on the exceptional nature of Daragh Mooney’s save to deny Conor McDonald a certain goal in the 71st minute Michael Ryan added: “to be fair I would have to see them again, but it really looked good. I actually thought the second one was in and the lads had to correct me on the sideline. They were great saves, but, look it, that’s the job. And, it won’t be lost on Daragh (Mooney) that he had to wait until game day three to get a game, but he certainly made a claim for the jersey tonight. I hope he’s not making his run too early and he gets his timing right. But, look it, that’s the nature of our squad down there in that dressing room. They are there to compete”.
And, while Michael Ryan was prepared to compliment the quality of Daragh Mooney’s work he was also careful to note that the defensive unit as a whole will not be pleased with the manner in which Wexford carved them open.
“Certainly not, absolutely not - I think there are loads of learnings here and I am just glad that we got away with the two points that were on offer,” Michael Ryan said.
“It would have been very disappointing for us, having been in good shape at various points in that match, if we didn’t come away with them. But, look, that’s hurling. It swings quickly. I thought the momentum was with Wexford. They really came at us and they did cuts us open.”
In round four of the league Tipperary are away to Kilkenny on Sunday, February 25th, but Jason Forde (Silvermines), John McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Barry Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg) and Paul Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash) will all miss out on that contest - the quartet feature on the University of Limerick team which faces Dublin City University in the Fitzgibbon Cup final on Saturday, February 24th.
“We have four involved with UL (University of Limerick) and we have nobody involved on the DCU (Dublin City University) team. So, in terms of our four we will just let them off. They won’t feature (for Tipperary) next weekend. The facts are the facts - we can’t play them in two games in the space of twenty-four hours. And, we are carrying a fine panel and those guys need game time too,” Michael Ryan said before his thoughts turned to the up-coming schedule of games.
In round four Tipperary are away to Kilkenny on Sunday, February 25th and in round five the Premier County host Cork on Sunday, March 4th - the quarter-finals are scheduled to take place on the week-ending March 11th, semi-finals on the week-ending March 18th and the final is fixed for Saturday, March 24th. In the opening round of the Allianz National Hurling League Tipperary lost to Clare (0-19 to 1-21) before the Premier County saw off the challenge of Waterford 1-20 to 1-11 in round two.
“There is still plenty to go for. We are on the four (points) and it was important to get there. After game day one we were coming home from Ennis and you would not like the look of the table and in game day two we got a start,” Michael Ryan explained.
“Every point is valuable when you want to be in that quarter-final place. The knock-out stages is still the aim - there are still four points to be played for and as far as our boys are concerned we immediately have to turn our attention to thinking about Sunday week (against Kilkenny). Albeit we are that two or three weeks earlier than normal this is a great league and it always have been a great league. In division 1A this is dog eat dog. And, I think it is great to hear the crowd get something out of a game in February. It’s rare, but, I think, we heard lots from them there tonight,” Michael Ryan added.
“It’s hectic. We are being as sensible as we possibly can. Thankfully, we are still standing up straight. The Fitzgibbon (Cup) is coming to its climax next weekend and at that stage we will be upon game day four and, to be fair, for any of the guys that have been involved I don’t see any signs of fatigue on those. So, in fairness the colleges are not killing them. They don’t train them, we train them and I think that’s a good balance to strike.”
Manager Michael Ryan revealed that Michael Cahill may well be ruled out of action for two weeks with an infection while Cathal Barrett was rested due to a groin strain, but will be available for consideration ahead of the clash with Kilkenny.
Michael Ryan also revealed that Barry Heffernan was not injured, but was called ashore on Saturday evening due to fatigue. The Nenagh Éire Óg wing-back marked the outstanding Lee Chin at Semple Stadium, Thurles. And, the pair had an eye-catching battle.
“He didn’t have a great start on Lee Chin - Lee Chin is really a formidable hurler; he really is a class act,” Michael Ryan said.
“I thought they had a great battle there between them in the first half and I thought Barry edged it coming up towards the end of the half. You can’t buy that experience - it’s really good. You look at Paudie Feehan, another young fella on the other wing. He had a really busy first half and that’s a good standard. Wexford are at a really, really good standard. They are possibly a bit further on than other teams and they are going to be a serious team come the summer.”
Meanwhile Michael Ryan admitted that Paudie Feehan’s lightning fast progression had caught him by surprise.
“He is a competitor first and foremost,” Michael Ryan said when asked to consider the form of the Killenaule man.
“I think that once you have that in your armoury you are not too young. He is just a real breath of fresh air. He just comes up and wants to hurl - as they all do to be honest. Paudie is a bit of a surprise because he made so much progress so quickly. Normally it’s a one-year apprenticeship or it can be a two-year apprenticeship, but Paudie looks to have got out of the traps early. But, look, it is still early days and one swallow does not make a summer. There is a lot of fighting still to go on inside in our camp to take a jersey and there are lots of games to be played. They will all get opportunities - that’s the intent.”
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