DECLAN BROWNE: Fixtures mess offers no reward for Tipperary footballers

To say I was disappointed walking out of Páirc Uí Rinn after Tipperary’s loss to Cork in the Munster semi-final four weeks ago would be putting it very mildly indeed, writes Declan Browne.

Considering how dismal Cork were in the first half and having been in control for most of the game, Tipp somehow managed to spurn a super opportunity of playing in a second consecutive Munster final.

However, after watching Kerry demolish Cork last weekend I think Tipp dodged a bullet as with their injuries and absentees they would have suffered the same fate. Facing into the qualifiers at this early stage isn’t ideal but we saw last year what a bit of momentum and luck can do for a team so here’s hoping for something similar to happen again.

Tipp make the long journey to Breffni Park today, back to the scene of their superb qualifier victory over Derry last year, in hope rather than confidence. With all the talk around the county of the supposed demise of our hurlers, Liam Kearns and his players have a great opportunity, following that loss to Cork, to get the wheels back in motion without any real pressure or attention. It’s also an opportunity for some of the injuries to clear up.

Cavan away from home was probably the toughest draw they could have got. Even though Cavan were relegated from Division 1, the experience gained from playing against the likes of Dublin, Kerry, and Tyrone will be of huge benefit to them. They also ran Monaghan very close in Ulster and have a qualifier win against Offaly under their belts, so Tipp will have to be on top of their game to have any chance of winning.

The injury to Michael Quinlivan had a massive bearing on the outcome against Cork as he would have steadied the ship around the middle where we were in big trouble. If he is not available today then our chances will be greatly diminished. How Conor Sweeney could’ve done with his presence in the full-forward line too! Sweeney is in the form of his life but will find it extra difficult to do it all on his own in a crowded area. Opposing managers now realise if you can curb the threat of Sweeney and Quinlivan and stop the supply at source then you have a great chance of winning.

Liam Kearns’ gameplan is going to be of huge importance as the whole surprise element is now gone.

Jack Kennedy returns from injury to make his debut, and should be used around midfield to give an energy, pace, and aerial presence which was lacking against Cork when we really needed it. I worked with Jack at U21 level this year and he was the best player on the pitch against Limerick until a harsh black card in extra-time. Kevin O’Halloran will have to start too, just for his free-taking ability alone, as missed frees cost Tipp dearly against Cork.

Against Monaghan, Cavan set up quite defensively and were happy to let the opposition build from the back. Then, with so many bodies behind the ball, they turned them over and counter-attacked at pace. I would imagine Mattie McGleenan will set his team up the same way against Tipp and, in Gearoid McKiernan and Cian Mackey, Cavan have two men capable of causing serious problems for the defence.

Mackey, in particular, has a serious work ethic and will always chip in with his few scores. Seanie Johnston’s return to Cavan has failed to ignite but he will still have to be watched carefully if he features. On his day he’s as good a finisher as there is in the game and he’s also deadly accurate from placed balls, so the Tipp defenders need to be disciplined in their tackling.

Considering the importance of the footballers’ game in Cavan at 2pm and the hurlers’ game in Thurles against the Dubs at 5pm, I, cannot understand, for the life of me, how the powers that be could fix both these games on the same day, 180km miles apart. With the run the footballers got on last year, they gained a lot of deserved extra support along the way but, as a result of this fixture mess up, it’s hard to see a big travelling contingent heading to Breffni Park, unfortunately. I couldn’t imagine this happening in any other county.

Looking ahead to the other round 2B qualifier games over the weekend, I expect wins for Carlow against Leitrim, Armagh to overcome a very brittle Westmeath side, and Monaghan to beat Wexford comfortably in Wexford Park.

Hopefully, Tipperary can join those three in the hat for the round three draw on Monday morning.

Cavan:

R Galligan; P Faulkner, K Clarke, J McLoughlin; J McEnroe, N Murray, C Moynagh; L Buchanan, T Corr; C Mackey, M Reilly, C Brady; C O’Reilly, G McKiernan, D McVeety.

Tipperary:

C Kenrick; C O’Shaughnessy, A Campbell, E Moloney; B Maher, R Kiely, J Feehan; L Casey, G Hannigan; J Keane, L Boland, B Fox; C Sweeney, K O’Halloran, J Kennedy.


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