The Fr Sheehy’s clubman offered an honest assessment of where Tipperary GAA stood at that time, insisting that the county’s hurling tradition was “almost threadbare” as he reflected on the collection of just four All-Ireland senior titles since 1968.
Two and a half years later, Tipperary are reigning senior and U21 hurling champions but the rapid progression of football is also a story that cannot be ignored.
O’Brien’s suggestion that Tipperary football teams should be aiming for All-Ireland glory at minor, junior, U21 and senior levels before 2020 raised eyebrows.
But in 2010 Tipp annexed Munster U15, U16 and U21 provincial football titles, while the U17 Darrel Darcy memorial tournament was also won. In the same year, Clonmel High School were crowned All-Ireland SF B champions while the county’s senior footballers ran Kerry close for 50 minutes before scalping Laois in the qualifiers.
But Wednesday evening’s almost miraculous Munster MFC semi-final victory against Kerry was something else entirely.
Tipp trailed by 11 points twice in the first half and were 10 points down at the interval and current manager David Power, who celebrated his 28th birthday in style that night, insists they will match Cork in the final.
“We’ll have no fear against Cork. Kerry are Tipp’s bogey team. If we had taken some of our chances we could have beaten Cork last year and then they went on to an All-Ireland final and could have snatched it against Tyrone in the closing minutes.”
Next year, 14 members of Tipp’s 24-man minor panel will be underage again. And Power is confident that the landmark success against Kerry, will spur the county on.
“We were told to play it in Clonmel, play it in Ardfinnan, get them down to a tight pitch. That’s a load of crap. If we’re to move on as a football county, we have to beat the Kerrys and Corks in Thurles, Cork, Killarney, Croke Park, wherever. (Tonight) is the start of it.
“Development squads are bringing us on a ton. After (tonight), the way we played, I think it can only entice more younger fellas to want to play football for Tipp. And I have to say this – there’s a perception that the county board in Tipp is only interested in hurling. They have given us everything that we want, absolutely everything. Barry (O’Brien), Timmy (Floyd), Eamonn (Buckley) have been superb.”