Former All Ireland winning captain, Eoin Kelly, believes newly re-installed manager, Liam Sheedy, will need time to make his mark and urged fans not to expect an All Ireland title immediately.
The last time Sheedy was in the role was 2010, when the county ended Kilkenny’s ‘Drive For Five’ and lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup. The news of his return was met with great excitement in the Premier County but Kelly maintains that after a shortage of confidence in the squad over the past two seasons, the Potroe man will focus on building up his side again.
“I wouldn’t have a very high expectation level for Tipp this year, I wouldn’t be expecting them to win the All Ireland final because it’s Liam Sheedy’s first season in. He’s trying to blend U21s into the squad, into the team, with the experience that’s there”, the Paddy Power GAA Ambassador said.
“It’s not as easy as Liam Sheedy comes back and Tipp win the All Ireland. Could you turn around in August and Tipp are All Ireland champions? You could. The potential is definitely there but I wouldn’t be demanding an All Ireland straight away. Tipperary, the expectations are always very high but I wouldn’t be demanding an All Ireland straight away, that’s a very hard ask.”
The Munster championship is heading into its second year of the new round-robin which sees every team play each other and qualify on a points system. Given the standard of hurling in the province, Kelly believes the competition is fiercer than ever and points out that failing to win your province won’t necessarily hinder the team.
“I think it’s just such a tough-structured Championship. I think Seamus Harnedy described it best when he said, ‘it’s a lottery’. It’s whatever team, for me, comes right at the right time and gathers momentum. So that could be hitting a good quarter-final, semi-final and final.”
“So if you’re in a quarter-final, obviously you’re not after winning your province. So there’s going to be ups and downs but I probably expect Tipperary to be in the knockout stages.”
The Premier County begin their Allianz League campaign against Clare this weekend, the side that beat them in the Munster Senior Hurling League final two weeks ago. Given the nature of the preseason competition, however, the 37-year-old is not placing much weight on that result.
“Knowing Liam Sheedy, he wants to win every bit of silverware that’s on offer but in the overall season, I don’t think it’s going to be a major talking point. Look, they’re trying a few different things, trying a few different players.”
“I suppose you have to bear in mind too that they’re playing Clare the first round in the League, so maybe they didn’t want to show their hand in that and they’re going to play Clare in the Championship as well so you’re going find there’s going to be a small bit of shadow boxing in a couple of preseason games and maybe, in a couple of League games.”
“Championship is number one this year. Got to the last two League finals, they didn’t work out, that form nearly carried into the Championship, so I have no doubt in my mind with Liam Sheedy, his only focus, even though he mightn’t say it, is going to be Championship and it’s going to be qualifying in Munster, getting in that top three to get out.”
Irish bookmakers Paddy Power have announced their GAA Ambassadors for 2019, revealing that former Kerry football star Darran O’Sullivan has joined their crack squad of columnists which include, Tyrone great Owen ‘Mugsy’ Mulligan, Cork hurling hero Diarmuid ‘The Rock’ O’Sullivan and the pride of the Premier Country, Tipp’s Eoin Kelly.