As media bans go, Michael Ryan’s was short-lived. Thankfully he saw sense and lifted the self-imposed silence to try and address the GAA community on what’s going on in the Tipperary camp, and hopefully light a fire in the team ahead of the Cork game next Sunday.
Because, after a dismal performance against an ever-improving Limerick side, silence was not the answer. And the GAA community made that well known to everybody, especially Ryan.
First of all, let’s take the point that Ryan had enforced the ban prior to the defeat in the Gaelic Grounds on Sunday afternoon. If this had been established with the media before the game, the backlash would have been less deafening. Announcing a sudden media ban moments after receiving a beating from their provincial rivals, after a meek performance from the players and after announcing a green, inexperienced line-up, exploded the attention on Michael Ryan and suggested that something wasn’t right behind the scenes.
Secondly, let’s take the idea that indeed all isn’t right in the Tipperary camp. It’s important not to jump to conclusions that Ryan has lost some of the players, or that there are players not contributing 100% to the cause, or that discipline is an issue. Tipperary have three more games to go in the new round-robin format and a recovery against Cork next weekend will greatly atone for the miserable performance in the rain in Limerick, and spur them on towards Clare and Waterford in the following weeks. All is not lost, Tipperary are very much capable of turning it around with the talent at their disposal.
But it’d be remiss not to acknowledge that the vibe around Tipperary hurling at the moment isn’t all honey and roses, and that was magnified with the line-up.
Injuries appear to have played a part in the unusual line-up that was fielded last Sunday and baffled some supporters upon its announcement. But that doesn’t explain why Michael Breen – who has an All-Ireland winner’s medal from midfield – didn’t even come off the bench, nor start ahead of two debutantes in the middle.
It doesn’t explain why Patrick Maher, a dual All-Ireland winner, didn’t come off the bench until the game was more or less over. It doesn’t explain why Seamus Kennedy suddenly found himself at full back, having played very little of the league – and none of it in that position.
Brendan Maher was reportedly injured and didn’t look 100% up to speed when he came on, but perhaps would have been better off starting and settling the game than being thrown into the melting pot as Tipp struggled to grab the game. Likewise for Seamus Callanan, who was anonymous when he came on and didn’t look at all fit. His talent is unquestionable, but he’s like a dog in chains if he’s not fit enough to use it.
Cathal Barrett is also injured and didn’t feature at all, not for the first time this year. The team was disjointed and looked strewn together, and was nowhere near what had been experimented with in the league and Ryan needed to address this after the game considering how much it backfired.
It was obvious silence from Michael Ryan was not the answer. And in fairness to the Upperchurch coach he realised that very quickly, and tried to atone for his mishap on Tipp FM on Tuesday morning.
He acknowledged that the formula didn’t work in Limerick – you could argue that there didn’t appear to be one – and focus is now entirely on Cork. He acknowledged the injuries, and noted the gradual improvements in Callanan, Brendan Maher and Bonnar. It’s not ground-breaking inside information, but it’s a positive spin on things to help brush away some of the negativity that lingered over the team. Radio silence was simply not the answer to such a pressing situation, and was never going to work unless Tipp executed a near-perfect championship.
Tipperary boast the most talented forward line in the country and if Michael Ryan can concoct a means of making it all work, like the well-oiled machine of 2016, then Tipp will be alright. The concern will be Sunday is too quick a turnaround, especially after Cork’s fine win against Clare. But a win in hopefully a sunny Semple Stadium will go a long way to vanishing a regretful week as far as Tipperary is concerned.