Blue and gold well-wishers lined the streets to pay tribute to their Premier heroes, bonfires lighting up the main thoroughfare.
Asked to quantify Tipperary’s Munster U21 triumph little over a week on from the 1-15 to 3-8 win over Cork, manager Tommy Toomey points to the celebrations in the hometown of captain Colin O’Riordan.
Today’s All-Ireland semi-final clash with Dublin may now concentrate their attention, but Toomey has no problem recalling a ‘breakthrough’ evening for Tipperary football. Victory over Cork was, after all, only the county’s second provincial title at this age group in the 54-year history of the competition.
The scenes of joy in Templemore are slowly becoming a familiar sight for the county’s emerging crop, affirmation that another rung of the ladder has been climbed.
“You could see going through Templemore how much it meant to the genuine Tipperary football folk,” Toomey remarked.
“There was only one place that Cup was going to go. Colin has been a fantastic captain. He was concussed with the seniors during the Sligo league game and did everything in his power to get himself right for the final.
“Even though he was still a small bit weak, he went out and gave everything. Football people were giving out about the size of the crowd and how just over 2,200 people attended the game. All the comments, however, from those who attended were on the standard of Tipperary, how our lads stayed in the game when Cork hit two crucial goals at two crucial periods in the game.
“Questions were asked and the lads came up with the answers. This particular bunch of lads have given Tipperary a lot of good days. We hope that will continue.”
Toomey shudders at the consequences had Cian Dorgan’s 62nd minute kick strayed inside the left post of the town end goal to force extra-tine.
“Had we lost that, it would have set us back a long way. Cork were very close to getting the equaliser. It is difficult at times to impress upon the lads they are capable of winning these games, that they are capable of beating the red and the green and gold. It will be the same Saturday. We need to have the fortitude to take on Dublin. We must believe.
“I wouldn’t go as far to say this weekend is bonus territory, but the experience is what we need. Tipperary need the experience of playing in All-Ireland semi-finals. We need our young players to be playing in Munster finals, to be playing in All-Ireland semi-finals if we are to bring them up to where we want them to be. We are a third division team. We want to move up the line and to do so we need to be performing at this stage of the championship.We need our young players to get a taste for the big day and to be successful on the big day. Just to get over the line against Cork was hugely important.”
Tipperary were comprehensively dismissed by Donegal in their maiden All-Ireland U21 semi-final appearance back in 2010. Ciarán McDonald, Conor Sweeney, Robbie Kiely and Peter Acheson have since graduated to the senior team, 2011 All-Ireland minor winners Michael Quinlivan and Seamus Kennedy following suit.
Six of the current U21 crop are already with Peter Creedon’s senior team and such progression is vital if Tipperary are to translate underage success into senior silverware.
“Colin O’Riordan, Steven O’Brien, Ian Fahey, Liam Casey, Evan Comerford and Jason Lonergan have played five league matches alone this year. That is what needs to happen. Tipperary needs to get a big turnaround from their minor and U21 teams. Unlike Cork and Kerry who can get by in pulling one or two from their U21 teams, we need to be pulling almost double figures from our teams. We need the lads who start with us at 14, 15 and 16 in the development squads to continue right through to senior level.
“Peter Creedon has done a fantastic job in opening up his door to the young lads coming through. The number of senior players that have All-Ireland minor medals is a testament to that. Lads are interested in playing senior football for Tipperary. They can see this project is moving in the right direction.”
E Comerford; K Fahey, J Feehan, C O’Shaughnessy; R Mulcahy, L Boland, B Maher; S O’Brien, C O’Riordan; J Lonergan, I Fahey, L Casey; K O’Halloran, J Keane, P Maher.
L Molloy; E Mullan, D Byrne, E Murchan; E Lowndes, C Mulally, R McGowan; S Cunningham, S Carthy; G Burke, A Foley, N Scully; C Costello, C McHugh, C Basquel.