Tipp thinking only of Munster

ALL-IRELAND finals and visits to The White House. Meeting Liam MacCarthy and Barack Obama.

A comfy seat awaiting in the all-time hurling pantheon.

But Tipperary’s Eoin Kelly tells you straight out. You never know you’re right until the whistle blows.

“We know what we’ve done and we’ve put in a lot of serious work, and as one of the experienced players I’d be 110% happy with the work that we’ve put in, in training and in the gym.

“But you don’t know until halfway through the first-half, or leading up to half-time, how you’re going.

“If you go back to last year’s game, at half-time we were still in the game but we were still kind of flat.

“You can prepare as good as you can and I think we’ve done that, but it’s on the day and it’s how much lads react to getting out there and going at the thing, having no regrets, having no fear.”

Last year means Páirc Uí Chaoimh and a ten-point beating by Sunday’s opponents.

Cork bossed Tipp that day. Kelly has no problem admitting as much.

“We probably had one or two goal chances, maybe, with the likes of Donal Óg Cusack, you’re not going to score handy goals on him. When you get in you have to make sure you score, but we didn’t take them. Even after half-time we were still in that game. It’s a game a lot of us would like to not talk about anymore because we were just so flat.

“Liam Sheedy could have made 13 substitutions that day, there were probably only one or two lads that performed.

“Aisake (Ó hAilpin) that day was awesome. I remember playing down corner-forward and you were wondering ‘what’s going to happen next’, because there seemed to be something happening every time it was going down.

“What was encouraging from our point of view was that we got over that defeat and we drove on and you’re hoping that lads gain serious experience with that loss and that we can use that in the first game of the season.”

For a student of the game like Kelly, the history of Cork v Tipp offers precedents for last year.

“Cork-Tipp throws up freak matches at times. I remember even going to a Munster final in 1990 and it didn’t happen (for Tipp). Mark Foley dominated that day.

“Look at the Tipp U21s last year against Cork. They were lucky to win that night, with that free by Seamus Hennessy, so there’s great respect there between Tipp and Cork, there’s great rivalry there.”

Kelly himself is healthy, apart from a recent broken finger and he’s glad he is, given the competition.

“A few lads have shown up well in the League and that’s why you don’t want to be missing games. You’re on your toes in training because if Declan ends up playing lads on form, sure what can you do?

“There’s a couple of positions up for grabs on our team — we’re in a good position that way.”

Kelly affirms the Munster championship is their sole focus and September hasn’t been given a thought.

“There’s no mention of that and I mean that. The way we’re looking at it is, we’re not Munster champions and a Munster medal is a prestigious medal. Go through Brendan Cummins, he’s 35 years of age and he has only three Munster Championship medals. That’s unbelievable for such a player.

“The Munster Championship is serious and I don’t think any players, be it Waterford, Cork, Limerick, Tipperary or Clare want to see the Munster Championship gone. It’s a serious, serious Championship.”

There are encouraging signs for Kelly: Seamus Callanan is out of the U21 age grade, for instance, which lessens his commitments (“He has one focus and that’s it.”). Tipp didn’t overdo the All-Ireland victory circuit either.

“That was over when we came back from our holiday. Before Christmas people would be asking me to a function and you’d say, ‘I can’t make it that night’ and they’d say, ‘You’ll make it another night’.

“When you came back your training schedule was Monday night in the gym, Tuesday night collective training, and again Thursday night. So for guys it was an easy way of not making it (to functions).

“Once we came back from the holiday we were back into the routine and that’s what I found anyway. It was easy enough.”

Easy enough then. Hard enough this weekend.

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