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Babs Keating Rips Into Brendan Cummins, Eoin Kelly And Lar Corbett In Very Frank Interview

Babs Keating Rips Into Brendan Cummins, Eoin Kelly And Lar Corbett In Very Frank Interview
By Conor Neville

Babs Keating has a touch of what Ger Loughnane has. He is so frank in interviews that you're inclined to wonder whether he knows that the microphone is on.

The old maxim 'you should never go back' was never more vindicated than it was in 2007 when Babs Keating's spectacularly ill-fated second stint in charge of the Tipp hurlers came to an unhappy end.

Had he stayed away he would be remembered only for his stellar playing career (which saw him win a couple of All-Irelands and play an All-Ireland final in his bare-feet) and his success-laden first spell as manager between 1987 and 1994.

The managerial rap sheet would only extend as far as his unwise prodding of the Cork 'donkeys' in advance of the 1990 Munster clash and his short and controversial spell over Offaly in the first part of 1998.

Last night, he appeared on Off the Ball to discuss Tipperary hurling generally, but the turbulent second spell in particular. He admitted he regretted returning for the second stint.

I do (regret going back), I do. I always remember having a chat with Nicky English and he had met Billy Morgan and Billy went back (for a second spell in charge of the Cork footballers). And Billy's words to Nicky were, 'it's not the same and you won't be dealing with the same people you dealt with twenty years beforehand'.

And I found a huge difference between the type of players in the dressing room in the last few years than we had in the old days... The fun we had in the old days with the first squad. No matter who you sat beside you enjoyed it. I found a different bunch...

We found it hard, I can't find the right words but if you look at the interview I had with the Tipperary county board for the job, 90% of the interview was devoted to discipline. If county board saw it that way, obviously there was a problem with that bunch of Tipperary players. I always remember I said I'll deal with the discipline if you stand by now. I dealt with the discipline but I'm not sure county board stood by me.

It was put to him by Ger Gilroy that the group of players who struggled under his management won an All-Ireland in 2010. Keating acknowledged that they had but said that they didn't cop=-operate during his time.

He maintained that Tipperary hurling would not be in the state it is now (he is adamant it is not in rude health) if the disciplinary rules laid down by him and his selectors in 2006 and 2007 were still being adhered to.

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As usual, he wasn't afraid of taking on the biggest names in Tipp hurling. Eoin Kelly, Lar Corbett and Brendan Cummins were all called out.

They did (win in 2010) and they played exceptional hurling. But they certainly didn't co-operate with us. And the rules that John Leahy and Tom Barry and myself laid down are the rules that wouldn't have Tipperary in the situation they're in today.

Eoin Kelly got injured playing Dublin out in Parnell Park. He came off after ten minutes. We played Wexford the following Saturday. I had an arrangement with Whyte's Hotel who had the ice baths. I had an arrangement that we used them. I suggested to Eoin Kelly that he go there immediately and get himself right. I checked with Whyte's Hotel on Monday, he never turned up. And he told everybody he was fit to play. At the end of the day, Eoin Kelly played for 53 minutes against Wexford and didn't deliver because he wasn't fit to deliver.

The same way with Brendan Cummins. No one got more warnings about the way we wanted to play hurling than Brendan Cummins and he just didn't co-operate with us. And we had a young keeper who I still think should be on the panel. Gerry Kennedy. He was exceptional. But because of his association with me, he was never heard of again.

If you're training and spending the kind of money in training that Tipperary county board spent, it's not unreasonable that everybody in the field know where the puckout is going... Now that's not unreasonable of management to expect that you'd have those kind of signals. But could I get that through to Brendan Cummins?

You take Lar Corbett. Lar Corbett came to me one night in training. I couldn't get him to train. And he said to me that his doctor told him that if he kept training, he wouldn't be able to walk when he was thirty. Now, how am I supposed to cope with that... Lar Corbett never trained with us. That was the situation for two or three years. I was around long enough to know that you cannot compete in the game we were at if you weren't superbly fit.

At the end of the discussion, Babs expressed fears about the state of the game. He does not believe the current Kilkenny team sit in the pantheon of great teams and certainly wouldn't live with the Kilkenny team from the 2006-08 period.

I'm worried in so far as that I still believe that the Kilkenny team that won this year are probably about 12 points inferior to the Kilkenny team that won nine years ago. That's not a healthy statement about where the game is going. If I passed that comment about a team that won an All-Ireland, then where do the others stand? If you look at Waterford having won a Munster Final, they basically had only one forward. You look at Cork. They played in an All-Ireland two years ago and they're at the bottom of the ladder, so there are a lot of worrying factors about what's happening out there at the moment.

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Read more: 10 GAA Stars Who Kept Playing Long After Their Inter-County Exits

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