In 2001, Tipperary captured the Liam McCarthy Cup under the stewardship of Nicky English. The following year, they chased a second consecutive Munster title, as they faced Waterford in the final. The Premier were heavy favourites to retain their crown in Páirc Uí Chaoimh.
What transpired on the banks of the Lee set the tone for the next five years in Munster.
Waterford upset the odds, and went on to share provincial honours with Cork for the majority of the decade. Meanwhile, Tipperary receded into the doldrums, before Liam Sheedy led them back to the promised land.
Throughout the decade, several managers tried and failed to guide Tipp back to hurling’s top table, most notably Michael ‘Babs’ Keating.
Babs had a hero’s status in the ‘Home of Hurling’, having been the manager to end the famine, winning the Munster title in 1987, their first since 1971, and the All-Ireland in 1989 and 1991.
However, his return was not so successful. He failed to click with the players, and fell out with many. Babs dropped some of the team’s top talents, including Lar Corbett, Eoin Kelly and Brendan Cummins.
In an interview with Setanta Sports, Kelly and Corbett did not hold back when criticising their former manager.
Babs seemingly was not the most popular characters upon his return, and is no stranger to controversy.