DESPITE THE RECENT controversy surrounding the venue for the upcoming Munster hurling final, Tipperary boss Declan Ryan and his side paid little attention to developments in the saga, or so they claim.
Waterford had asked for the venue of the final to be switched from Páirc Uí Chaoimh to Semple Stadium – a proposal that was ultimately rejected following a vote by the Munster Council.
“That was a matter for county board officers,” says Ryan. “Munster Council make the fixture. We weren’t getting involved in that. Our job is to prepare the team and get ready for July 15. We certainly weren’t taking any notice of it.
“We were aware coming back from Cork, having beaten Cork, that there was some rumblings about the fixture but our thoughts were to leave it to the county board and the Munster Council. Wherever the game was fixed, we didn’t mind. We were going to play there anyway.”
Asked about Tipperary’s comfortable victory over the same opposition last year, Ryan indicates there is little chance of his side showing any complacency this time around, regardless of previous results.
“To be honest with you, when we got to the All-Ireland semi-final last year I was delighted with the way that we got over Dublin. I suppose in hindsight maybe (the Munster final) wasn’t the best thing in the world but this is a new year now, Waterford are under new management, they’re playing a more physical type of hurling and have a more physical type of player in the team.
“I think we all know last year’s game was a once-off so this year we just have to take this game on its own merits.”
And Ryan also indicates his side will need to produce a more convincing display than their recent frenetic victory over Cork, if they are to emerge victorious on this occasion.
“I think there’s plenty we can improve on. I think our defensive display against Cork wasn’t exactly what we know our lads are capable of – we know they’re capable of better. We could have knocked in another goal or two maybe while our wides tally wasn’t too bad on the day.
“I think our work rate overall from one to fifteen could improve but I was delighted with the character the entire panel showed that day and if we can maintain that character, eliminate some of the mistakes and play with a bit more freedom the next day, I think we’ll see a better display out of Tipp.”
And while Tipp haven’t always been the most solid of outfits as a unit, Ryan knows he can at least rely on the consistent dedication of one player in particular – two-time All-Star nominee Patrick ‘Bonner’ Maher.
“He’s just a wholehearted guy. He trains the same way he plays. He lives to train and he’s just a fantastic man to have on the panel. He’s the type of guy any manager would give their right arm for to have on their panel and you see every day he goes out he gives his best; it doesn’t matter what game he’s playing in if it’s Waterford Crystal, League, Munster Championship or All-Ireland series, that’s the type of player he is. Every team needs a player of his calibre.
“He’s a team player. He works his backside off for the team; his fitness levels are fantastic and he’s certainly a player that no back would fancy marking for 70, 75 minutes. I’m just delighted that’s he back in such good form again.”
He continues: “Every team has a player whom they’d be a lot poorer for were he not playing and Bonner Maher certainly falls into that category for us.”
And in spite of some notable achievements in recent years, Ryan believes the Tipp squad are as formidable and hungry as ever this time around.
“We’ve found a couple of guys and guys that weren’t in form last year seem to have come back into form. It’s good to have them around the place. We certainly have more options on the bench than we had last year anyway.
“That’s a positive from a Tipperary point of view but no doubt Waterford will test all our positives the next day – in Tipperary, we have to be mindful of the fact that Waterford have contested a lot of Munster finals in the last 12 years. They’re seasoned campaigners, most of them. They’ll be coming to make their mark on this Munster final.”