TIPPERARY’S defeat by Limerick in the opening game of the new Munster SHC format wasn’t a huge surprise, according to Cork selector Donal O’Mahony.
With Cork extracting the maximum return from their opener with Clare and Tipp leaving the Ennis Road empty-handed, a different complexion has been put on the meeting of the old rivals in Thurles next Sunday.
“Yes and no would have to be the answer to that. Everybody was saying at the start of the year that Tipp were favourites for the All-Ireland but going on form, Limerick are after having a great year so far.
“They had a very good league campaign and showed very good character in the game against Clare and against Tipperary too, losing in extra-time in that game.
“They were the form team going into last Sunday, they were at home in the Gaelic Grounds and, like ourselves against Clare, they were targeting the home games, you nearly have to win those games.
“Tipp were missing a few bodies so the result wasn’t overly surprising.’’
Taking advantage of your home games is crucial, according to the Bishopstown club man and he had nothing but praise for the Cork fans last Sunday when the game was still delicately balanced.
“We try to keep outside stuff out but it was hard to get away from the fact that it was a historic occasion in Páirc Uí Chaoimh last Sunday, first Cork team playing championship hurling in the new stadium.
“We got a fantastic reception when we came out and when the game was tight the home support was a factor, it helped to drive us on.
“They came back from five points down and the game was then in the balance so the home support was a huge help then, definitely a factor.”
Despite having two points on the table and Tipp not having any, O’Mahony believes that the margin for error going forward will be minimal.
A Tipp win on Sunday and either a Waterford or Clare win in Ennis would put four teams on two points apiece going into the following round of crucial fixtures a week later.
“Absolutely, it’s new for everybody and we are all getting used to it but our thing at the start was that it had to be a game at a time.
“The Clare game is over, we have parked it because if we start focusing on what went right and wrong in that game we wouldn’t have our eye on the ball for the Tipperary game.
“At the same time we can’t worry about permutations if we win or don’t on Sunday, our total focus is on Sunday to achieve the outcome that we want.
“On Monday we’ll start planning for the game after that and see where we are at on the table.
“John (Meyler) has great experience in relation to that with the young fellow in the Premiership, going from week to week, just parking things and moving on.”
O’Mahony is aware of the implications of what Sunday in Thurles might bring, on one hand taking a huge step towards qualification for the All-Ireland series and on the other doing serious damage to Tipp’s hopes.
“Absolutely, but, as I said, that’s a permutation that we are not worrying about, we are trying to get another win, that’s the object of the exercise and it does not matter, one point, two whatever as long as we get the win.”
With such a demanding schedule of games, there has to be an awareness of team selection from week to week and try to ensure that players remain fresh.
“Yes, that gives people an appreciation of how difficult the job is, do you pick your best 15 every week, do you rotate the team, rotate the panel, all those things must be considered.
“We started out as a new management team this year and the emphasis was on form in training and because of the new structure we didn’t have as many practise games and because of the April situation with the clubs.
“That made training games more important.”
The competition for places is intense and O’Mahony is aware of the disappointment that some players can feel when they lose out on first-team selection.
“The big thing that we tried to look at this year was the character of fellows. We tried to develop the character within the squad and I’ll pick out two fellows, Eoin Cadogan, in particular.
“Eoin had a fantastic league for us, he made a big decision to come back to hurling and I would expect that he was disappointed last week when we named the team.
“But he was fantastic in the hotel and in the dressing room before the match, passing on his experience to the young players.
“It was the same with Lorcán McLoughlin, he was used to playing and just to see his attitude as well before the game.
“These fellows didn’t sit in the corner, they were just giving advice to the young guys and that’s what you want, that type of attitude and character.
“That’s what we want in the camp and those two fellows certainly bring that.”
So, it’s so far, so good with another huge test awaiting in Thurles.
“The message to the lads is for them to try and get the best out of themselves. We felt we played well against Clare and as a consequence, we won the game.
“We worked a lot in training on defence and on discipline and our free count was good.
“We dealt with a big injury and Clare coming back at us from five points down but we are not naive to think we haven’t work to do going forward because Clare did cause us problems at times.’’