By Shane Brophy
Two-time All-Ireland winning manager Liam Sheedy has been encouraged by what he has seen from Tipperary under new boss Liam Cahill.
The Premier County have won their three league game so far, despite things being far from smooth for the new management in terms of injury and bereavement from last year’s squad.
"They've dealt with it really well so far,” Sheedy admitted, speaking ahead of his Laochra Gael show which aired on TG4 last week.
“Liam (Cahill) has a real handle on all the talent that's coming through at underage. He's had them all, he knows what makes them tick.
“Mikey Bevans has an excellent coaching relationship, and the boys are really enjoying their hurling and enjoying the set-up. It augurs really, really well.”
He added: “Look, he is being dealt more hard blows. Paddy Cadell is out for the season. Cathal Barrett is touch and go. I'd dread to think that we'd have a Championship full-back line that wouldn't have Cathal Barrett in it. I think he's one of the best corner-backs in the country and they're hard to find.
“But you look at some of the players... Bryan O'Mara, he's had an incredible Fitzgibbon campaign for the last two seasons and he's getting a free run with injury.
“There are some people being tried in new positions as well. Liam has made numerous changes to his squad and the squad keeps on delivering.
“They had a good win against Dublin, and they've turned Kilkenny over in their own backyard for the first time in a long time. I think we hadn't won there since 2008 when we beat them in a league semi-final. So, all of the vibes are right.”
Liam Sheedy brought a lot of the players that won under 20 & 21 All-Irelands in 2018 and 2019 onto his panel but the combination of two Covid campaigns and the delay in physical development in some of those players stalled their progress. However, he feels those players are coming into their prime now to make an impact this season.
“We have a lot of talent from those underage teams and they're all four or five years older now, so they're coming into that 24-25 age bracket. I think that's the bracket where it's really time,” Sheedy added.
“That's where you need to be, based on some of the physical attributes and some of the programming that you need to have behind you to really feature at the top level. I think they have that now so we're hopeful in Tipp.
“There's probably not a whole deal of expectation down on top of Liam's shoulders because he was given the job for three years and he'll be told that he's got to build a plan. I have no doubt about what his ambitions are for 2023 and I think he's going about it in a super way.
“I really like the physical look of the team. They look in really good shape. I think there's a really good energy about the group and some of those younger guys are starting to come.”
Liam Sheedy was in a similar situation to Liam Cahill back in 2007 when he took over a Tipperary senior team with low expectations coming into a campaign, but with a core of exciting young talent coming on stream from the 2006 & 2007 All-Ireland minor wins, the first under Sheedy.
In that context, the Portroe clubman feels Tipp have the ability to turn things around at senior level pretty quickly.
“I’d always be of the view in Tipperary, if we get our act together and are going well, we can generally put 15 really good players on the pitch and have five more to come on, so I do think we’re not shy of having hurlers,” he said.
“It’s just about getting that formulation right. It just looks like a group there’s a lot of harmony in right now. Watching their body language on the field, how hard they are working for each other – they’ve passed all the tests that have been put in front of them.
“After a poor year last year by their standards where they didn’t win a game, I think they’ll see this as being a real shot in the arm. Having the older guys in there with experience is good, and you’ve younger guys looking to step up to the plate. If you don’t bring a strong attitude and a strong work rate, Mikey Bevans and Liam Cahill won’t be happy. So, I’m liking what I’m seeing.”
Tipperary, arguably, face their stiffest test so far when they welcome Waterford to FBD Semple Stadium this Saturday evening for a game with much riding on it, with the sides to meet at the same venue in the championship at the end of May, but for the moment is the chase for the two semi-final spots from division 1B of the league.
There has been a lot of discussion about the value of the league, considering the proximity of the final being just two weeks before the start of the Munster Championship, and Liam Sheedy feels that puts managers in a difficult position as the main competition comes into view.
He said: “It is difficult on the managers because you are trying to get the balance right, but ultimately for all the managers in the game the 23rd of April is the date when the championship starts, and it’s a ferocious championship.
“Munster is a minefield; I think it is going to be an incredible battle.
“Ultimately, if you can win the league and come in the top three in the championship then fine, but I suppose Waterford in some ways sent a warning side last year. They were just incredible in the league but ended up not coming in the first three in Munster.
“So, (the league) is slightly devalued and I think they need to create some small bit of a window. There is a free weekend next weekend and there was a free one already, so maybe if they killed one of those and give more time between league and championship, that probably would be the preference for managers.”