Seeing old team-mates, managers, and coaches out on the pitch congratulating the present bunch is a perfect indicator of what this means to the hardcore Tipperary football supporter who has endured way more bad days than good over the years.
Those Tipp followers are genuine people who have stood by us through everything, and I am so glad to see them rewarded yesterday. I shed a few tears when Tipp won the Minor All-Ireland in 2011 and this historic win was just as emotional.
Despite it being an underdog’s weekend — Ireland U20s beating the Baby Blacks and the seniors shocking South Africa — few gave Tipperary any chance of overturning Cork for the first time in 72 years. The hay saved and Cork beaten in both hurling and football already!
Nothing won yet, of course, but we will still savour every minute. Munster football final day is special, so the next three weeks will be huge for Tipp. Most of this current squad have beaten Kerry underage, so this massive occasion will not faze them.
I played in two Munster senior finals, but our teams never took out Cork or Kerry along the way. It’s what some of us played for so long to achieve, but couldn’t quite pull off. So, these players and management deserve massive praise. Maybe the Munster Council will now reconsider their decision to seed Cork and Kerry.
Without a lot of big players this year, Liam Kearns must be so proud of how the team went about their business. We must remember Kearns has previous experience of beating Cork in his time as Limerick manager, so this would have fed into the team’s belief.
Right from the throw-in, Tipp took the game to Cork, asked the questions and, for most of the game, Cork simply had no answer. Other than in that 10-minute period late in the second half, when they scored 1-6 on the trot to level things up, I couldn’t get over that Cork were so poor.
Their game-plan was non-existent with the breeze and attack so disjointed. That two of their six first-half points came from Conor Dorman, down to start corner-back, underlined that impotency.
When Tipp came out after half-time and scored the first two points with the strong breeze, Cork looked dead and buried. Listening to some of the Cork supporters at half-time, they still had their sights focussed on a Munster final against Kerry in Killarney.
Did this seep into the mentality of the Cork players? Did South Africa and the Baby Blacks suffer the same fate on Saturday?
My pet hate in Gaelic football of late, the short kick-out, cost Cork dearly. When a game is in the balance, I can’t understand why a team puts themselves under needless pressure in this manner. I know possession is nine-tenths of the law, but Brian Fox’s goal illustrates just how disastrously it can go wrong. Also, Cork suffered a similar fate in the U21 All-Ireland final against Mayo just a few weeks ago.
The first few short kick-outs didn’t go to plan either for Tipp, but this was rectified. Tipp goalkeeper Tipp Evan Comerford was outstanding, making two terrific saves at vital times in the second half.
However, then came that terrifying Cork revival. We have seen it before and Tipp have been on the wrong end of it too often. The growing panic that spreads. It’s so hard to put a finger on how those momentum shifts work. One minute you’re flying, then when a team gets on top of you, you suddenly look so sluggish.
A few of these players have suffered injuries lately, so understandably some tanks emptied a little early and, when the pressure came on, they buckled.
But they didn’t break.
When Paul Kerrigan scored the equaliser, of course you would have taken the draw, heartbreaking as it would be, but that next kickout was won, and the players decided this wouldn’t be a hard-luck story.
I joked to a friend on the way out; what good would winning it by nine points have been?
We have been on the wrong side of these dogfight endings, these nearly-but-no-cigar gallant efforts; especially with Cork, so these players deserve their moment in the sun for not throwing in the towel in the dying minutes.
Undoubtedly, Tipperary have lots to work on before they face the might of Kerry, especially in the Kingdom’s backyard, but that’s for another day.
This was a day for Tipperary football... and the people who care deeply about it.