Colin O’Riordan: ‘I’m the proudest Tipperary man in Australia’

Rising AFL star Colin O’Riordan admits that Tipperary’s stunning Munster SFC semi-final victory over Cork has fuelled his desire to represent his county again.
Colin O’Riordan: ‘I’m the proudest Tipperary man in Australia’

O’Riordan revealed how he felt like the “proudest Irishman in Sydney” when he woke at 4am on Monday morning Down Under to discover that Tipp had overcome Cork in senior championship football for the first time in 72 years.

O’Riordan, forging a new life for himself as a professional with the Sydney Swans, couldn’t get back to sleep as his mobile phone buzzed with messages of goodwill following those seismic events in Thurles.

The 20-year-old proudly wore a Tipperary jersey into the Swans training ground, as he tried to explain to puzzled team-mates just how big a result this was.

“My heart was racing, I couldn’t get back to sleep,” says O’Riordan, a Tipp senior star in 2014 and 2015.

“I texted most of the (Tipp) lads to be honest, as many as I could, to let them know that I hadn’t forgotten about them. Emotion took over and I had a tear in my eye.

“I was the proudest Irishman in Sydney to be honest.”

O’Riordan was captain of the Tipperary U21s that stormed to Munster glory in 2015 and he admits that this senior success had him dreaming of lining out for his county again.

“I’d love to,” he confirms. “Last night whetted my appetite even more. The weirdest things go through your head, like ‘could I get home for the Munster final? Will I, won’t I?’ But then you come out of dreamland and back to reality. There’s no chance of that and it takes you back a step but I’d love to play for Tipp again.”

Back home, midfielder George Hannigan revealed how Tipp drew on the pain of Páirc Uí Chaoimh defeat in 2014 to fuel Sunday’s landmark victory.

Two years ago, Tipp went desperately close to a shock win against the Rebels on Leeside, leading by a point in the second minute of stoppage time before Aidan Walsh kicked three late points for Cork.

History looked like repeating itself on Sunday as Tipp saw a nine-point lead wiped out but this time, Kevin O’Halloran slotted over a ’45 and a free in stoppage time.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Hannigan.

“There have always been close encounters and close calls, it’s great to experience that feeling of beating one of the big two. It’s a great day for Tipperary football.

“Against Cork a couple of years ago, we probably had a certain amount of players who were very young and maybe hadn’t experienced that situation before.

“Two years ago counted for something, obviously, so I’d like to think that we got that from somewhere to pull it out of the fire there at the end.

“It was looking pretty bleak when they came back to equalise, it was great to stand up and get the win.”

Hannigan revealed that Tipp spoke about the prospect of a strong second-half fightback from Cork, who trailed by seven points at half-time on Sunday.

He said: “At half-time, we talked about all the things that needed to be talked about, the different permutations. We said that Cork were going to come at us, they had to, they’re a quality team.

“They weren’t just going to lay down and we talked about the different scenarios, we talked about keeping the heads and doing the right things and doing what was asked of us pre-game and, thankfully, it all worked out.”

Manager Liam Kearns, who became a grandfather for the first time just before the game, explained the strategy Tipp had employed.

“We felt we had forwards good enough to get scores — we scored 3-15 and we wanted to mix it up, run at their defence and get early ball in and make it as hard for them as we could.

“The kick-out strategy and our midfield had to get enough ball to allow us to do that and they did in the first half, and played some really top class football.

“We got 2-2 from the boys inside and scores from outside as well. We played really well and that gave us the platform to win the game.”

And Kearns paid tribute to the crucial dead ball work of O’Halloran, which saw Tipp over the line.

“I’ve done a lot of work with the lads on free-taking. The Kildare game (league) was a prime example of a game where we missed frees we shouldn’t (have).

“Every night for the last month, we’ve had them in early, Kevin, Michael Quinlivan, Josh Keane, Alan Moloney, and Conor Sweeney, full-time doing nothing only taking frees and in fairness, Kevin was superb.”

Here's a little extra sport. BallTalk TV look at Ireland's 1-1 draw with Sweden and discuss the Belgium game.

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