Memory of Bloody Sunday invigorates Tipperary footballers

Memory of Bloody Sunday invigorates Tipperary footballers
Conor Sweeney and Peter Acheson of Tipperary celebrate after the match at Croke Park. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

Tipperary football chairman Joe Hannigan, who claimed the county were aiming to win an All-Ireland senior title by 2020, has revealed the inspiration behind the goal,writes John Fogarty.

Hannigan, whose son George lines out in midfield for Liam Kearns’ side, says the memory of Bloody Sunday victim Michael Hogan was the motivation that compelled the ambitious objective.

It was at a civic reception in November 2011 for that year’s All-Ireland-winning minor team in Hogan’s home of Granglemockler where claiming the Sam Maguire Cup by the start of the next decade was publicly discussed by Hannigan, minor manager David Power, and others.

“The 2020 plan came from the anniversary of Michael Hogan being shot dead by the Black and Tans on November 21, 1920. We had a target to honour that man’s sacrifice and that was to try and win an All-Ireland before the centenary. Tipperary also won the 1920 All-Ireland although it was played later. Now I’m not saying we’re going to do it but we’ll have a cut at it. We like to think we’re making strides towards it.”

Hannigan knows there were some who scoffed at the loftiness of the goal, which was also mentioned by former Tipperary board chairman Barry O’Brien. However, it wasn’t uttered without substance.

“It’s not as if it was said without a plan. A lot of development work has gone from the mid-noughties and the players are coming through now. The trick was keeping them playing and having something for them to play for. When you talk ambitiously, people say you’re talking raiméis but at the same time you set goals and targets.

“You develop these players and you keep telling them that the goal is on and fellas are beginning to believe it now that we have turned a corner. Now it doesn’t look so far-fetched. That said, the last four or five fences are the hardest to jump.

“The way we’re playing football is refreshing. If we’re let play we’ll give anybody a run for it. Watching the big teams play, there’s a lot of pulling and dragging off the ball and maybe the pundits are praising things like that rather than condemning them for it. We like to play a good, open brand of football. You hear pundits calling it naive; we’re only playing it the way it should be played.”

Hannigan maintains Tipperary will play football as honourably as they can. “Liam Kearns has brought in an element to our game that is refreshing. We’re not going to be influenced by other teams. We’re just hoping we’ll be let play. The quality and character of the individuals in this group is so good. All of them are leaders.

“Some might be young, like Colm O’Shaughnessy who is still only 19, but the maturity he has shown is incredible, getting so many As in his Leaving Cert. Evan Comerford is such an intelligent footballer and he can put a ball into a bucket from 60 yards. Peter Acheson is the best footballer in Ireland at the moment, never mind Tipperary. He can play anywhere on the field. Brian Fox is a top class character. Ciaran McDonald is training to be a surgeon and coming back from two hip operations... it’s unreal what he’s done.”

It’s the acknowledgement of those players that gives Hannigan the most satisfaction. “What’s most important is the recognition of the quality of players that we have. The management too,” he said.

“When we beat Cork we got no credit. When we beat Derry we got no credit. Go to Kerry and lost to them by 10 points in their own backyard, I don’t think we should have been condemned for that.

They are the aristocrats and we gave a good show. Some said Kerry were in second gear but I wonder were they.

“We’re Division 3 on paper but I really wonder if we’re Division 3. Guys like John Evans, Peter Creedon, Liam Kearns, David Power, Charlie McGeever, Tommy Toomey — they’ve all helped build the characters of these players.”

Meanwhile, as a result of Sunday’s win over Galway, defender Jimmy Feehan has had to postpone a college work placement in New Zealand by a month, while one prominent player is delaying emigration due to a lack of work.

This story first appeared in the Irish Examiner.

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