Patient Tipperary looking after minor matters first

TIPPERARY U21 manager Tom Fogarty believes the county need to contest more and more underage finals if they are to catch Cork and Kilkenny in the senior stakes.

And he admitted that there was no temptation to include any of the All-Ireland MHC winning side in his squad for Sunday’s pulsating drawn decider with Kilkenny.

The Premier County won the minor crown a week previously but there was no place for corner-back Brendan Maher, captain Joey McLoughney or sharp-shooting corner-forwards Patrick Bourke and Timmy Dalton on the U21 side.

In any other county there would surely have been two or three standouts who would have been added to the older panel. In a county like Tipperary, seeking its first title at the U-21 grade since 1995, you would expect that logic almost demanded it.

But Fogarty explained the position in Tipperary: “Our priority this year was to win the minor All-Ireland. We hadn’t won one for ten years. If we’d brought any of those lads onto the panel, we’d have to have done so after the Cork game (Tipp beat Cork in the Munster final).

“We didn’t. We felt it would have been very unfair to the minors. We’ve got to rebuild slowly in Tipperary, so it was very important that we won the minor All-Ireland, and it’s important now to come with a good minor team again next year. It’s important we come with a good U21 team again, and there are hopeful signs down the line.

“But even if we’d won this game, we’re still not at the level of Kilkenny and Cork. We’d be kidding ourselves if we think we are. In my opinion, we have to be contesting minor and U21 finals — dare I say it — with almost monotonous regularity, like Kilkenny, Galway and Cork are.”

In Kilkenny, however, there was no such reluctance. Star of the show for them on Sunday in the final pulsating minutes was young substitute Richie Hogan. Full-forward on the minor team that lost the All-Ireland semi-final to Tipp, Richie was introduced with 20 minutes remaining and left an indelible mark. He hit a brilliant point from under the Hogan Stand, after winning a ball that looked lost. Then there was the final strike, a first-time injury-time whip to the net of a breaking ball, the goal that brought this game to a replay Saturday in Thurles.

Another star, surely, is born, a fact recognised by Kilkenny manager Adrian Finan.

“Everyone knows about Richie, he’s a great lad, and fair dues to him he did the business.”

The irony of course is that just a week earlier, it was another three youngsters, Cha Fitzpatrick, John Tennyson and Richie Power, who were on the lips of hurling fans, after all three had starred in Kilkenny’s senior win over Cork. This week, they are the veterans on an U21 team of whom much is expected.

Tough on them, when you consider that they are, in fact, all just 21, 20 in the case of Power.

“You’re being built up all the time,” says Finan. “But just because you win one on a Sunday doesn’t mean you’re going to come back to win another the week after. So it’s back to square one.

“You’re up against a very good Tipperary team, they weren’t going to give you an inch; it’s hard on every one of them, and I hope that for the week ahead ye (the media) focus on the whole team, not just those few.

“We saw two fine hurling teams on Sunday, the best team will eventually come out on top, and hopefully that will be us. The next day is a new day again.”

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