Winning Spain's Paloma O'Shea Piano Competition, which Hugh Tinney did in August 1984, can put a pianist on the map. Tinney, the current O'Shea laureate, is playing his way through his prize: a three-year, international tour of almost 100 concerts_a schedule that brings him to the Kennedy Center tomorrow.

"As much as possible, I try to meet people," says the 26-year-old Irishman, speaking from a hotel room in New York City. "I try to see something of wherever I am -- museums, local landmarks . . . to keep up the stimulation, so as not to get tired of touring."

What about the requisite socializing? Tinney says that "there's the odd time after a concert when you feel like curling up and hiding, but music is a communication of a particular, directed kind, and afterwards you really have a need to communicate in another way . . . and even at a cocktail party, you can usually find a few interesting people to talk to."

Of his career Tinney says, "things had worked out in such a way that I had been building up, year by year. I had had a bit of coping with the press, and so on." And winning Italy's Pozzoli Piano Competition, which he did in 1983, helped by serving as a "smaller, dry run" for the strenuous rewards of the O'Shea competition. The recital, which begins at 8 p.m. in the Kennedy Center's Terrace Theater, will include works by Bach, Schubert and Albe' niz.