Sports

Michael Ryan says Clare are on top of their game

Thursday, 25 January 2018

TIPPERARY begin their competitive year on Sunday next when they head to Cusack Park in Ennis to take on Clare in which will be a testing opening game to their Allianz Hurling League campaign.

While other counties were taking part in the provincial pre-season competitions, Tipperary opted out and instead played a number of challenge games which went well for the Premier County.

Manager Michael Ryan is beginning his third season in charge and knows they will have their credentials tested next Sunday.

"We will be heading up to Clare and they are in great form. We saw them in Fenway Park and we saw them well advanced. They beat us and they beat Galway out there (Boston) and their tails are up.

"Most teams are preparing the same way. Kilkenny are a team putting up high scores in the Walsh Cup. So the competition is high and will continue to be so. Anybody who is writing up Kilkenny's demise - and many have done that several times - but I am not a subscriber to that view. I think 2018 is going to be a brilliant year.

It's novel to start with but will be a brilliant championship. It will test us all and even on the sideline in terms of how we manage our affairs."

Will April be an awkward month?

"April will come and April will go but the guys will play their club games and it hugely important. We have always had that."

Some guys will get a lot of work and some guys will see their club knocked out early?

"Well we will have to make sure that our programme will be adaptable to cope with the. We suspect we will always have a cohort working hard throughout April. We will be adding to it.

"I think it's a very exciting year. The only downer is that we won't have an All-Ireland in September. That's the only thing I would change. Look the calendar is the calendar and we need to open our minds and August 19 just seems strange but it will come and we hope we will be standing straight at that stage."

So far preparations have gone well for Michael Ryan and his team. Tipperary has completed their planned four challenge games plus an internal game last weekend. He says he is happy with the preparations and with the hard work.

The only setback is that Seamus Callanan won't be available for the league. Niall O'Meara is currently nursing an injury. He received a heavy frontal challenge against Dublin but other than that the remaining thirty seven players (forty named in original panel last October) on the squad are raring to go.

"We are in the throes of our work literally getting ready for Sunday. It comes around very quickly. We are working extremely hard we have picked up a few knocks because we are working that hard.

"We won't see Seamie Callanan for the league. He has an issue with his back. He is a big loss but there is an old saying 'come and take a jersey'. It's a horrible thing for Seamie or for any of the panel.

"It's been at him (the back injury) a while and we will have to monitor it as it goes. He is like half the population, bulging discs, sitting on a nerve. We have introduced new faces to the panel. Keeping everything fresh and hungry. I am really happy with what I am seeing in training, great attitude and application. There is no joy in this training, just hard work," said Ryan.

With the Allianz league commencing earlier, Tipp began their preparations before Christmas. There is so little time to get the body ready. But Michael Ryan said the lads are in good shape coming back for training except for bulkiness.

"There is nobody coming in to the squad but they are in good shape. Predominantly what we are seeing is young players coming in not big enough (not bulked), not introduced to us and that is the delay. Our senior players are so well developed and that is the standard."

Does Michael Ryan fear the new year because of all the changes to the championship?

"Do you know what I find it exciting being honest. I am buying into the whole thing - thinking from a player's perspective. A greater number will play league games and a greater number will play championship. So from a panel perspective it's very healthy,"

"The worry for me is the whole month of April and where we will be at as regards injury for the first championship match on May 20. A grade one hamstring tear and that's that for the year. Every other manager in the country is the same.

We started with forty and lost David Sweeney very early. He is having an operation on his knee. He is very unlucky. He played three or four games for his club with that injury. Yet when we scanned him it was a cruciate. He has had his operation and is recuperating but will miss 2018. We are at thirty nine and stay at thirty nine," explained the Tipp manager.

"It's going to be an interesting league. Nobody will give anybody a free ride. Everybody has the same ambition. We hope to get to the quarter finals. That the aim. The first target in everyone's plans at the start of the year. Obviously we are planning to stay in Division 1A. That's always the challenge. In fairness it's been a super league the last number of years,"

He agreed that the winners tend to come from Division 1B.

"We will take our chances with all of that. That standard of play in Division 1A is relentless. We love that and the boys love that. The game is real and every game matters. So does next Sunday. It doesn't be too long coming around," the Tipp manager said.

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