Tipperary stalwart Mary Ryan is glad to put the days of moral victories behind her, even if it means that losing narrowly to the very best on bigger stages hurts desperately.
Ahead of a third meeting with Clare in as many weeks as the Glen Dimplex All-Ireland Championships get under way tomorrow, Moneygall’s All-Star defender views last year’s National League and All-Ireland semi-final defeats to Kilkenny and Galway, and this year’s winner-takes-all League group game against Galway, as opportunities lost while also providing affirmation of a consistently new high level of performance.
A surprise loss to Clare in a replayed Munster semi-final was a reminder that Tipp aren’t the only side to improve in recent years, however. While Kilkenny and Galway twice, went on to ultimate victory after overcoming Ryan and her colleagues, Clare had to give best to Cork, though they forced them to two periods of extra time.
“The Munster final was a great game,” notes Ryan during a feature-length interview to be published tomorrow. “We definitely know what to expect. There is no point in saying we wouldn’t have valued getting to a Munster final. It was a tough loss to take.
“But I suppose the fact that Munster is running so close to All-Ireland now it’s a case of quickly pick yourself up and dust yourself down. It’s funny how it’s turned out that we are facing Clare first, we will be sick of the sight of one another.
“We’ve to try and get back out there and prove ourselves. Clare, for sure they’ll fancy beating us again. They had a great run out against Cork. It was a great game from both sides. So yeah, it will be interesting to see how the game goes on Saturday, the third in a month now lining out against one another and trying to figure one another out.”
Ryan is entering her 18th championship campaign, having joined the squad in 2005, the year after Tipperary’s last All-Ireland triumph. She is able to put context on the aforementioned defeats to Galway and Kilkenny.
“I’d say a few years ago we might have been (happy with) people telling us we had a moral victory and we were getting there. Last year, Galway in the semi-final and in the league this year, we did come away kicking ourselves, raging that we had lost the game. In Ballinasloe this year, it was disappointing because it was a very good game. We performed well and you come away disappointed. It was no good for anyone to turn around to us and say to us, ‘Oh look how close ye came.’ Because we wanted to win, as simple as that.
“But things are progressing. There is still things you need to tweak. The loss to Clare, they’re games that we probably expected better performances of ourselves and there is always things you need to tweak.
“After Galway, we would have reflected on the semi-final loss last year. Things that we could have done better to maybe get over the line. We took a lot of confidence from that. Then I suppose it’s the challenge of the game itself. You are trying to adapt, meet them this year, but they are also adapting and they are also progressing and changing their game.”