IN ALL FAIRNESS - We love a good whinge in Tipp

In the course of Liam Cahill’s post-match interview following another Munster Hurling Championship classic with Waterford at Walsh Park on Saturday evening, he remarked; “we tend to love a good failure in Tipp” and it is hard to disagree with him.

We love hurling in Tipperary, it’s a passion, but that passion can go too far when things aren’t going well. Years ago, the late Paidi O Se remarked that Kerry supporters acted like animals when they weren’t winning, and I’d argue that you could attribute that to some Tipperary supporters when it comes to hurling.

Criticism is merited when results and performances aren’t achieved, and Liam Cahill readily admitted that, but for some, no defeat can be tolerated. When we lose, everything is wrong, the club structures are wrong, the coaching structures are wrong, sack the manager, the players aren’t good enough, the county board are useless, we have all heard them and you could add a lot more to that.

I actually think some Tipp supporters enjoy a loss more as they can criticise rather than the team winning and giving some credit.

Tipperary’s hurling tradition is a strength as much as it is a weakness. In terms of the latter, it brings pressure, particularly in terms of expectation, whether it is realistic or not. Whether you are an under 14 starting out in the Tony Forrestal or an experienced senior, wearing the blue & gold jersey brings with it a level of responsibility and every player understands that. Sometimes, a game just doesn’t go a player or a teams way, that is human nature but sometimes supporters fail to appreciate that.

Also, the era of the traditional big 3 of Tipp, Cork and Kilkenny dominating the hurling scene is over. Counties like Limerick, Clare, Waterford, Galway, Dublin, and Wexford are putting in just as much work to develop their players and in any one year can compete strongly in any grade so Tipperary cannot just show up and expect to roll over an opponent.

However, there is still a culture in this county that this is what should be happening, and it doesn’t help in our ability to win games. A good as the Kilkenny teams were under Brian Cody, particularly from 2000 to 2015 when they won eleven All-Ireland’s in that time, they never took any opponent for granted.

People always put their ability to dish out big beatings to the likes of Wexford and Offaly on annual basis down to their greater talent level, which they were, but there was also a ruthlessness to their play, they never played down to the level of their opposition. They always found a way to be primed for a game.

Brian Cody’s regularly said, “a game takes on a life of its own” and he was always right as on any given day if you weren’t switched on, an opponent can win, but rarely were Kilkenny not switched on during his reign.

And the same has continued undernew manager Derek Lyng over the last season and a half, and that ability to be always competitive, even with a less talented side to the ones of the recent past, is a credit to the county and I have no doubt that is coached into the players right from the first time they put on the black and amber for the first time.

In Tipperary, we need to get away from the mentality that we should be beating the likes of Clare and Waterford as we have traditionally done. Yes, we should, provided they are treated with respect. Every Tipperary hurling team taking to the field should respect their opponent, and the greatest respect you can give an opponent is see them as a threat and play them as hard as you would as a keen rival, that is the sign of a good player and team. Don’t just assume the blue and gold jersey is going to sprinkle you with gold-dust and scare the life out of the opposition, it doesn’t work that way any more and hasn’t for a long time.

There is a lot of good work going on at underage level in Tipperary hurling. Last year was a down year at minor and under 20 level, and that can happen if the talent level isn’t good enough in a given year, or a management team decide to play in a style that doesn’t suit the strengths of the players at their disposal, and the latter is what I firmly believe is what happened last year, and to the credit of James Woodlock and Brendan Cummins, they have reversed course from the systemised hurling they had their teams playing last year for a more expressive style which gets the most from their players skillset.

There was doom and gloom locally going into this year’s minor and under 20 championships as to their prospects, but things have turned out differently so far, and while the teams may or may not achieve success in the Munster and All-Ireland Championships in the coming weeks, they are competitive and once you have that as a minimum, everything after that is down to ability on the day, a refereeing decision going for or against you, a bit of good fortune etc....