As the new season dawns, Liam Sheedy’s charges are bidding to go where no Tipperary team has gone since 1965 and successfully defend their All-Ireland title.
However, through experience the county know that they can’t let things go stale – Sheedy will hope to have several new faces in the team in 2020, following All-Ireland titles at U20 and U21 grades over the last two years.
Jake Morris, Mark Kehoe, Jerome Cahill, Willie Connors and Brian McGrath are among those pushing hard for starting berths, and an injection of youth will pose a challenge to the older guard.
“You love the challenge. You love training with these guys,” explains captain Seamus Callanan. “As well as them trying to learn from us, we can learn a lot from them as well, because they’re coming in care-free, just playing their best hurling, full of confidence after the last number of years with the U21s.
“We had the U21s as All-Ireland champions two years ago, and the U20s last year. So they’re the future of Tipperary, and the more of them that can get a bit of game-time in the Allianz League and things like that to try and force their way in, that’s great. The older guys, we want that competition for places, we want to fight for the jerseys. It will benefit us all really. They’ll give us challenges, we’ll give them challenges and hopefully we’ll have a really good mix together.
“I hope they are coming for us. That can only shift standards upwards. We might be at a level where we think the standard is, and I’d be hoping that the younger fellas come along and blow that out of the way. Hopefully we’ll all rise with them, and we’ll all create a new standard together.
“It’s a great opportunity in the Allianz League to set themselves up for the summer. But the older lads aren’t going to step aside either too easily.”
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The Premier won their third Liam MacCarthy Cup triumph in the space of nine years last August. The next challenge is to become the first Tipp team of the modern era to do more than just ‘one-in-a-row’.
“Once January comes, everyone is on a level playing field,” noted Callanan, playing down the significance of being reigning champions.
“We didn’t look at Limerick last year and say ‘they’re the defending champions, let’s do this, let’s do that.’ You concentrate on your performance, when you’re in preparation mode, you’re in preparation for your own team. You give every other team the respect they deserve when you’re getting ready to play them in the championship or a league game but I think everyone is back down on a level playing field again.”
They’ll get their season underway this weekend as the Treaty travel to Semple Stadium.