By Barry McEneaney
A deflated Declan Ryan paid tribute to a “hungrier” Kilkenny side in the aftermath of the Cats’ 2-17 to 1-16 victory against his Tipperary side in the All-Ireland SHC final at Croke Park.
The Premier County supremo also cited a slow start for the defending champions as a major factor in their downfall.
“These guys prepared very well all year, it just didn’t happen today,” Ryan told RTÉ.
“We were lucky to go in only five points down at half-time. Kilkenny showed savage hunger again and they showed all the hallmarks that have made then a great team.
“Hats off to Kilkenny, they showed they were real champions to come back and play like that today.
“We struggled to get out of the blocks today for whatever reason. Kilkenny probably looked a bit that bit hungrier and that bit fresher than us.
“We were just hanging on to their coattails. Kilkenny seemed to be moving the ball a bit better and seemed to be hungrier today.”
The Clonoulty-Rossmore legend didn’t feel that the burden of favouritism had weighed too heavily on his charges, but conceded that Tipperary had failed to hit top form when it mattered most.
“You go out every day and try to play as well as you can and if you do that you’re going to have a good chance,” he said.
“I suppose today we didn’t play as well as we can and maybe we weren’t let. We’ll have to sit down and have a look at it.”
Ryan remains full of admiration for his vanquished stars and believes the future is bright for the Premier County.
“I’m very proud of the Tipperary guys,” he added.
“They’ve worn the blue and gold jersey with great pride all year, so full credit to our guys as well.
“The average age is something like 24 or 25. There are a lot of winners in that dressing room, guys that have been very successful at underage. I think the future is positive for Tipperary, we have a lot to look forward to.”