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Jackie Tyrrell: 'That will be the first challenge keeping your guys on the field fit and healthy'

The Kilkenny All-Ireland winner looks ahead to the start of the hurling championship.

Clare and Limerick teams during the parade before their 2018 championship clash.
Clare and Limerick teams during the parade before their 2018 championship clash.
Image: Bryan Keane/INPHO

THE STRENGTH OF their panel was often pointed to as an instrumental factor in Kilkenny’s spell of All-Ireland winning dominance and Jackie Tyrrell, a defensive anchor on those sides, feels squad options will be more critical than ever before as the 2020 hurling championship will begin this weekend.

After a chaotic and dramatic year, the hurling action is set to start out with the Leinster meeting of Dublin and Laois on Saturday night in Croke Park before the Munster opener involving Limerick and Clare on Sunday in Thurles.

The nine-time Liam MacCarthy Cup winner feels the county which can retain the availability of their key players at a time when Covid-19 cases continue to remain high, will be in the best shape to land hurling’s biggest prize.

“The team that can keep their panel Covid free, that will be the first challenge keeping your guys on the field fit and healthy. Could you imagine if a TJ Reid went down with Covid, a Seamus Callanan or a Cian Lynch? What would that do to the team? Who could ride that and get away with it and get a replacement in there and be able to see it out?

“You see the NFL at the minute with all the Covid outbreaks in it and what that’s doing to teams. So I would say who has the strong panel? Who has the back up of that seven, eight, nine lads that could potentially come in and fill a gap?

“You’re going back to old championship, a condensed one. If you can keep out of the backdoor, it’ll probably help a small bit. It’s probably being really smart in training, keeping your guys healthy and having them ready to go.”

JT Jackie Tyrrell is a Littlewoods Ireland ambassador.

The shift to hurling in winter will not be as big a factor in Tyrrell’s view as he looks ahead to a season that is particularly difficult to predict a winner.

“I do believe the weather, the time of the year has a small bit of a factor. I don’t think it’s worth any more than maybe three, four points to a team playing. We played an All-Ireland semi-final against Limerick in 2014, I’ve never played in such bad conditions and it was in August. It’s not like we’ve the best of weather all summer long.

“We’ve nothing to go on, no run into it. Normally you’d have a league campaign. We have absolutely nothing to test the temperature with. It’s just weighing up where the teams are, where they were in their league, what kind of championship we’re going to have as regards the weather conditions. Who will that suit the best? It’s a real shot in the dark but that’s the beauty of it, that’s the excitement of it. That’s the great thing about it, we have a championship to analyse, to look at.”

jackie-tyrrell Jackie Tyrrell in action for Kilkenny against Limerick in the 2014 All-Ireland semi-final. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

The James Stephens club man has sympathy for players in trying to remain focused amidst such turbulence at present.

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“I would say it’s very tough and uncertain times for GAA players and managers. It’s hard to play inter-county hurling and football when you don’t have to worry about external factors but now there’s so much more to think about in your day to day routine of life before you even get back to training.

“It’s a pressurised game, we expect a lot from our amateur players. Look they always respond but it’s just there’s so much being put on their plate now. You constantly have to be locked in and watching out for the risks that are out there. It’s a lot to put on a guy that’s in his early to mid twenties.

“It’d be a brave decision to say, ‘Do you know what lads, this is just too much’. I haven’t heard of that yet but you could totally understand why a guy would.”

ronan-maher-and-seamus-callanan-celebrate Tipperary are the reigning All-Ireland senior hurling champions. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Still the four-time All-Star winner during his Kilkenny career remains convinced there is enthusiasm amongst inter-county hurlers as the season is set to resume.

“If I was in their shoes I’d be chomping at the bit and I know from talking to lads locally that they are as well. It’s been a long year, the club has been hugely successful from the point of view of raising spirits, the great games we’ve had. There’s been a bit of negativity through some of the stuff that we haven’t done right.

“But in general I think as a whole it’s been really well done and managed the majority of the time. I think there’s an appetite for lads to get back there and get playing. I think GAA players are programmed to put on their inter-county jersey, go out there and compete against the best. That doesn’t leave you, that burning desire to have a cut off the championship.”


Ahead of the All-Ireland Hurling Championship, style icon and hurling legend Jackie Tyrrell has collaborated with Littlewoods Ireland, for the relaunch of its own brand menswear collection, Very Man, this autumn. The full Jackie Tyrrell Very Man Edit is available online on littlewoodsireland.ie now.
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About the author:

Fintan O'Toole

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