Nine years ago, Liam Sheedy’s last game as manager of the Tipperary senior Hurling ended in joy as his charges won Tipperary’s 26th All-Ireland title and in the process the win put an end to Kilkenny’s drive for five.
His departure the following Spring allowed Declan Ryan take over. Ryan brought Tipp to the final in 2011. Eamon O’Shea replaced Ryan and in 2014 was denied an All-Ireland success by Hawkeye before Michael Ryan led the county to success three years ago.
So it has come full circle for Sheedy. The Portroe man has other terms as manager, leading his club Portroe to their first North Senior Hurling title in 2012, while dabbling with other county teams like Antrim while at the same team spending a number of seasons analysing many games with RTE’s The Sunday Game.
The Bank of Ireland official has huge interest in GAA affairs and in 2018 he went for the post of Director General as Paraic Duffy was stepping down. Sheedy’s bold bid wasn’t enough.
He doesn’t dwell too much on the past he says, citing that he moved on quickly helped by sound advice from his late mother Bid.
”My mother (Bid) was a huge influence on me over her lifetime and thankfully she was around for ninety years. That was her statement, what is for you won’t pass you by. It’s something that has stuck with me so if it passes by me it wasn’t meant for me and you move on and I move on quickly. Look at where I find myself now and I am really enjoying where I am,” said Sheedy.
Reflecting on his decision to move on he added “To be honest I don’t look back on life. I spend my life looking out through the front window of the car most of the time. There is a path laid out for us all. That path wasn’t for me. I certainly gave it everything and clearly that particular number wasn’t for me and this number was.”
That number is manager of the Tipperary senior team which he took last year after Michael Ryan decided to step down.
Sheedy’s passion for the game pacing up and down the sideline is clearly evident for all to see over the past seven Sundays, first through the group stages of the Munster championship and later through the knockout stages of the All-Ireland championship.
They say a second coming is not wise but Sheedy returned and now he has his team in an All-Ireland final, a place which he set out to capture from the outset.
”At the start of the year you want to be involved on All-Ireland final day. It is a tough competition. This is game number eight for us. It is a long road,” he claims.
”The last time if you won four matches you won the All-Ireland. It is a little bit different now. Yea, this is exactly where you want to be. The two semi-finals were two hugely exciting matches.
”Obviously for Kilkenny toppling the All-Ireland, League and Munster champions was a phenomenal performance. I have huge admiration for their spirit, their style of play. They got off to a great start and never wilted. They deserve great credit for that.
”We had a job to do against Wexford. With 20 minutes to go it was looking that maybe it wasn’t going to be our day when we were five points down and a man down.
“The spirit and character we showed was something that was very pleasing for me as a manager. The way we reacted when the pressure was on was terrific,” said Sheedy.
He admitted. “I didn’t turn that match. That match was turned inside the white lines. That is what you need, leadership inside the white lines. When the ask is greatest and you respond that is most pleasing for a manager. That was certainly a serious ask. I am delighted we came up with the answers.”
Sheedy suggests that as a person who has worked with people all his life, there is nothing better than to see people improve with experience and learn all the time. Since the exit in 2010 he says he is better at delegating.
”It is no easier now than it was. I do more delegating now. Probably others are feeling it a bit more. That is where the benefit of having a bigger support team around you comes in. I have massive trust in everyone around the team that they can do their job to a really high standard.
I think the lads have responded really, really well to that and you see the results coming out in their performances,” said the Tipp manager.
The Portroe man is reminded of his meeting with Brian Cody. It’s so easy to revive those memories of 2010 but Sheedy is keener to look forward than to look back.
”The final of 2010 is long gone. It is long gone. The game has changed. The teams have changed. Brian (Cody) has built a new team again. This is more or less a new team in Tipperary as well.
”2010 counts for nothing in this final. This is about two teams who managed to get themselves back into the All-Ireland final after losing provincial finals. They are both there on merit. Both were severely tested.
”From that perspective we are really looking forward. All-Ireland final day is very special. We love being involved, being a part of it. We are enjoying the build up to it. Preparations are going really, really well and these guys are just enjoying their hurling.
”We know we have to be at the peak of our powers. We have seen enough over the period of play that these lads can bring a really strong performance, and they have a chance of being champions. If they are a bit off at all no better team than Kilkenny to turn you over. They are an exceptional side.”