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Sheedy 'the luckiest man on earth' to miss out on GAA's top job in light of Covid crisis

Tom Ryan pipped Liam Sheedy to the director general position in 2018.

Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy.
Tipperary manager Liam Sheedy.
Image: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

BACK IN 2018, Liam Sheedy emerged as one of the leading candidates to succeed Paraic Duffy as the director general of the GAA.

Aside from having managed Tipperary between 2008 and 2010, where they lifted the Liam MacCarthy Cup in his final season, he was a member of the GAA’s outgoing management committee and acted as chairman of the Hurling 2020 group.

But the GAA’s finance director Tom Ryan was given the nod ahead of Sheedy, who announced his return as Tipperary manager six months later.

Any lingering disapointment around missing out on the organisation’s top job was laid to rest when Sheedy led Tipperary to the All-Ireland title last August. 

Then the GAA were forced to deal with the Covid-19 pandemic, which produced a litany of financial, fixtures and logistical headaches for Ryan and president John Horan to oversee.

Had things turned out differently, Sheedy would have found himself in Ryan’s unenviable position in navigating the GAA during one of the most uncertain periods in its history.

Asked if he dodged a bullet by not getting the director general role two and a half years ago, Sheedy quipped: “I must be the luckiest man on earth, that’s all I can say.

“No, you would feel for Tom and it’s really difficult in any association. People and members are always looking for certainty and as an organisation we thrive on certainty but we’re in a time when we can’t give certainty because the thing is always moving and moving at a pace.

“Overall, the GAA have been superb but it has been a difficult time for John and for Tom and I think they have tried to make the decisions to give themselves the best chance of a good outcome.

“But if you look at the U20s [being postponed until 2021] it’s really unfortunate but we find ourselves at a time where it certainly isn’t the most important thing on the agenda.

“John and Tom have shown they will make whatever decision is right to ensure the safety of our members, which is paramount.

“What they have done in every community right across Ireland over the last number of months has been superb. I think for the people in the communities they can see it for themselves.

“I think the GAA has played a big part, irrespective of the activity, I think they have played a big part in some of the activities that have really helped communities over the last few months which has been really tough,” he added.

Although Horan was initially unsure whether the All-Ireland championships would go ahead, the GAA’s leadership over the past few months have been keen to stage the games.

Sheedy praised how Ryan and Horan have guided the Association in extremely difficult circumstances.

“I would be very happy that John and Tom will make the decision in the best interests of the Association at all times. But we all need to understand that it is just so uncertain, we have never had to deal with anything like this before and when you are trying to deal with that level of uncertainty, there is no right or wrong answer.

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“It is certainly not an easy thing, obviously, the Government are anxious that something will run as well. 

“We are still on really rocky ground and the safety and the welfare of our players and their families are still the important thing over the next few weeks and if we can manage to do that and still play games, I think it is a good outcome.

“But if it has to go, no better men than John and Tom to make the right call for the Association. They are trying to give it every chance which is all any of us can ask for.”

Sheedy is chasing a unique treble this season, having managed Tipperary to All-Ireland success in each of his last two years in charge of the side.

He referenced that record while playing down the pressure surrounding the Premier’s bid for back-to-back titles.

“I have the back to back done already. I won it in 2010 and then walked away and came back and won it last year,” he laughed. “I don’t know where this back to back is coming from.”

His familiarity with the role might give him an advantage over Brian Lohan, Shane O’Neill and Liam Cahill, the three managers in their first year in charge of Clare, Galway and Waterford respectively.

“I don’t think the amount of time you are around, I don’t think it will be any easier for Brian Cody than it will for the rest of us, who is there for as long as any of us can remember,” replied Sheedy.

“I think ultimately all squads will be faced with different tasks, their line of work, take Paudie Maher he is in the line of fire there as a garda. [Managers are] probably more dependent on the squad and what they are having to deal with on a day-to-day basis is probably the greatest challenge.

“The most important thing is that there is really good communication and as I said my commitment to the lads and is that the environment we look to expose them to with Tipperary when they come into train is a really safe environment and is the safest place they could be at that given time on a particular evening.

“I would be very confident that would be the set up right across the country. The GAA has given us great guidance. We get in every day and confirm we are all temperature-checked, the masks go on and only come off when the lads go up on to the field, but the days of 20 or 30 in a dressing-room are long gone.

“It really is and the guidelines have been laid out, players are following those guidelines and that is the most important thing. I don’t think how long you are there as a manager is not the overriding factor.”

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About the author:

Kevin O'Brien

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