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Tipping point to success made in Belfast

 

Team effort: Captain Seamus Callanan and manager Liam Sheedy celebrate at Thurles last night
Team effort: Captain Seamus Callanan and manager Liam Sheedy celebrate at Thurles last night
Belfast man Cairbre ÓCairealláin
Glory day: Tipperary’s Ger Browne leads his teammates in celebrating their All Ireland triumph
Declan Bogue

By Declan Bogue

Thirty years on from Tipperary beating Antrim in the All-Ireland final, there was a strong Saffron influence running through the team for Sunday's All-Ireland win over Kilkenny.

While making his acceptance speech, Tipp captain Seamus Callanan noted among his list of people expressing gratitude that they had: "An absolute legend in Cairbre ÓCairealláin. He put some serious work into us and that didn't go unnoticed out there on the pitch."

ÓCairealláin is Tipperary's strength and conditioning coach, recommended to Liam Sheedy through Anthony Daly, whom he had come into contact with through his work with the Limerick hurling academy.

The Belfast man's work was evident in the pared-back physiques of the likes of John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer, who said after the game: "Liam (Sheedy) came back and told me a few home truths at the start of the year and I worked a lot with the S&C, and it was just about getting that base fitness. The team as a whole, we all did it together, we went through thick and thin together."

The work was also acknowledged by Sheedy himself, who was typically generous with spreading the credit, stating, "Cairbre doing the S&C, the condition he has got those players in is just fantastic. They challenged the lads and the lads responded."

ÓCairealláin followed older brother Ainle down to the sports science faculty in University of Limerick after completing his A-Levels in St Mary's CBS, Belfast, and forged a most unusual coaching and sporting path.

Instead of returning home for summer breaks, the brothers hurled in Cork with Na Piarsaigh. However, persistent injury issues left Cairbre spending more time working with the Limerick hurling academy where he came into contact with Daly.

Having studied a Masters alongside former Irish rugby international Jerry Flannery, they switched places when he returned to work with Munster and ÓCairealláin landed a three-year internship with the Arsenal Academy, where he came under the guidance of Galway native Des Ryan and Barry Solan, who worked in that field with Mayo before joining Arsenal.

The two talked in the lead up to Sunday's final. "He said to me, 'Take a moment to take it in,'" said ÓCairealláin.

"It's surreal, you are so focused on how to win the game. But when you came out, it was what you have been dreaming about all your life, so - obviously not in Saffron colours - it's good."

He outlined the job of work with the Tipp hurlers since pre-season began in the depth of last winter.

"We spoke about the pillars we wanted to attack, based on last year and things we wanted to put an emphasis on," he said.

"Liam was very interested in what makes an S&C programme work. He said that from the very beginning, he wanted to be as fit as possible.

"So there was a lot of physical training. You would be in awe of the way the boys approach training compared to professional athletes I used to work with in Arsenal."

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