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New Tipp hurling boss Michael Ryan will ruffle a few feathers in the quest for success
Eamon O’Shea’s successor won’t be afraid to do things his way.

THE NEWS THAT Michael Ryan would succeed Eamon O’Shea as Tipperary’s new senior hurling team manager wasn’t delivered in the usual way.

Instead, it was announced that Ryan would take over way back in October 2014, almost a year before O’Shea vacated the position.

As O’Shea mulled over the prospect of one more year at the helm, he stressed the need to groom a successor before agreeing to a final season in charge.

We’ve rarely, if ever, seen a new manager announced before the old one had served his time but in a groundbreaking move, the installation of Ryan was rubberstamped long before a ball was pucked in anger in 2015.

Ryan is highly thought of but he’ll bring a different approach to the Tipp camp, promising greater levels of physicality as the Premier County look to retain their Munster crown and potentially dethrone Kilkenny as All-Ireland champions.

His winter training panel reflects as much and while a number of players have retired, Ryan will continue to work with the core of last year’s panel, with a sprinkling of new names thrown into the mix.

James Crombie / INPHO James Crombie / INPHO / INPHO

It’s in attack where Ryan wants to see distinct improvement. The hurling ability of the forwards isn’t in doubt but their ball-winning ability has been called into question on a consistent basis.

O’Shea’s philosophy was based around the creation of space and fluent interchangeability but Ryan looks set to adopt more of a direct approach.

Already, Ryan has shown that he’s not afraid to ruffle a few feathers, poaching Steven O’Brien and Seamus Kennedy from the football camp.

Kennedy’s first love was always hurling but O’Brien’s defection from the big ball code is a major blow to new football boss Liam Kearns.

Not that Ryan will be too concerned. He’s merely interested in winning matches and lifting trophies and if he has to upset a few people along the way to do that, so be it.

Ken Sutton / INPHO Steven O'Brien has joined the Tipperary senior hurling panel. Ken Sutton / INPHO / INPHO

An open, honest straight talker, Ryan has insisted in private discussions with the football camp that O’Brien isn’t there simply to make up numbers. He sees real potential in the Ballina man to win ball around the half-forward line and he’ll be given a chance to do so.

If O’Brien doesn’t cut the mustard, he’ll return to the football camp. Simple as that. But once he saw some potential in O’Brien to possibly become a cog in his wheel, it didn’t matter to him that he was such a vital component of the football set-up.

Behind the scenes, Ryan will have impressed upon his players the importance of representing themselves with dignity and humility on and off the pitch. It’s how he operated himself and he expects the same standards from the players he hands jerseys to.

His reign begins tomorrow in Templemore, when Tipp host Offaly in a senior hurling challenge.

He’ll give a number of players the chance to impress, with further matches against a star-studded selection of former Thurles CBS students and Laois pencilled in over the coming weeks.

Donall Farmer / INPHO Captain Brendan Maher operated at centre forward for Tipperary last year. Donall Farmer / INPHO / INPHO

What we’re likely to see going forward is a strong central spine, with captain Brendan Maher expected to revert to midfield, having been tried at centre forward last year.

And while county board chairman Michael Bourke, an Upperchurch-Drombane clubmate of Ryan’s, is appealing for patience as the new man gets his feet under the table, that’s a commodity in short supply in Tipperary.

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Tipp pride themselves on the ‘Premier County’ and ‘home of hurling’ monikers but the Liam MacCarthy Cup has been delivered just five times in the last 45 years.

Way back in 2008, when former county board chairman Barry O’Brien took over, he insisted that the county’s hurling tradition was ‘almost threadbare’, given the relative lack of success that had been achieved.

But Tipp remains a strong hurling county and their supporters, rightly so, demand and expect success.

There are some, however, that will argue that the continuing emphasis on hurling is having a detrimental effect on football at a time when, if Kearns had all of the players that he wanted available, the chance is there to kick on and achieve a significant breakthrough at senior level.

Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO Tipp senior football manager Liam Kearns. Lorraine O'Sullivan / INPHO / INPHO

As Brendan Cummins outlined in his autobiography, Standing My Ground, far too often successive Tipperary senior hurling teams have failed to deliver when the heat is at its most intense.

The challenge for Ryan is to change all of that and he’ll realise that it’s a big ask, given that not even O’Shea, a man revered by the players, could get them over the line.

The road to redemption for Tipperary beings tomorrow. There will be some bumps along the way but Ryan’s ultimate vision is to see his players climbing the Hogan Stand steps next September. Anything less will be deemed a failure and in Tipperary, that’s always how it should be.

One thing’s for sure, having served under previous managers Liam Sheedy and O’Shea, Michael Ryan won’t be afraid to do things his own way.

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