Hurling and camogie

Home truths from Liam Sheedy transform Tipperary's 'Bubbles' from substitute to All-Ireland winner

John O'Dwyer (11) with Mark Kehoe and Seamus Callanan celebrate at the final whistle in yesterday's final at Croke Park. Picture: Seamus Loughran.
Andy Watters

A FEW “home truths” from manager Liam Sheedy transformed John O’Dwyer from substitute last year to All-Ireland winner yesterday.

‘Bubbles’ hit a goal and two sumptuous points to kill off the Cats and afterwards the Killenaule clubman was able to savour “a moment to cherish”, a second All-Ireland medal earned by the sweat of his brow.

He had been dropped from the starting 15 last year but all that changed when he reacted positively to a heart-to-heart with Sheedy who had returned to the Faithful county helm after Tipp had endured a disappointing 2018.

“I had an operation at the start of the year and it kind of held me back last year a small bit,” said O’Dwyer.

“But I wasn’t using that as an excuse, I just wasn’t good enough to get on to the team.

“Liam came back and he told me a few home truths at the start of the year and I worked a lot at strength and conditioning, it was just about getting that base fitness; that was basically it.

“It’s not just a personal thing, the whole team did it together, we went through thick and thin together and that is the most pleasing part. Personally, it’s good to win and it’s good to play but there’s 39 other players in the squad and collectively it’s brilliant for us.

“It’s a great feeling. It’s my second one and it’s taken us three years to get back again so it’s a moment to cherish.”

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Under Sheedy’s predecessor Michael Ryan – the architect of their 2016 All-Ireland triumph – Tipp had fallen off the pace last year and failed to make the All-Ireland quarter-finals.

“Last year wasn’t a great year for us,” said O’Dwyer.

“When we got back together at the start of the year we tried to hit the Munster Championship hard.

“We did it in two phases – the Munster phase and the All-Ireland phase. We weren’t successful in the Munster phase (beaten in final by Limerick) but we were successful in the All-Ireland.”

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O’Dwyer added that the credit for the side’s transformation went not just to Sheedy but to his backroom team that includes Tommy Dunne and Darragh Egan.

“Just Liam returning is no good,” he said.

“He came back with a backroom team that is different class. He got the people that he wanted and without them Liam is no good and he’d tell you that himself.

“They brought a whole professionalism in the way they go about their business. Our strength and conditioning, our nutritionist, our coaches… Everything that you look for was given to you on a plate so there was no stone left unturned and we got our just rewards and the end of the day.”

Tipp had been 0-8 to 0-3 ahead but they were back on terms after Niall O’Meara’s first half goal. The sending off of Richie Hogan left Kilkenny with a mountain to climb and Seamus Callanan’s goal early in the second half and O’Dwyer’s major soon afterwards left Sheedy’s men in a commanding position.

They had to withstand a sustained aerial barrage before they pulled away to win by 14 points.

“It probably looked comfortable because they did go down to 14 men but it wasn’t.

“After we got our second goal Kilkenny came with a barrage. They attacked where they are strongest and that is in to the full-forward line. The scores didn’t come too easy for us but we worked hard, that was one of the pillars we tried to get to – just because they were down to 14 men we didn’t want to take our foot off the pedal.”

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