Maintaining the form which delivered All-Ireland glory was always going to be an ask, particularly given the county’s chequered history when it comes to defending Liam MacCarthy, but Fox is worried by recent performances.
The two-time All-Ireland medal winner doesn’t wish to come across as scathing, that’s not his style.
The results and the performances, however, are what they are. And they haven’t been encouraging.
Take last weekend at home to Westmeath. Michael Ryan’s charges were just three points clear — 1-12 to 0-12 — when debutant goalkeeper Daragh Mooney denied Westmeath’s Cormac Boyle a goal with a fine save in the 53rd minute. That’s rather too close for comfort.
“To be quite honest, it was worrying to see the way they played against Westmeath,” says the 1991 hurler of the year.
“They didn’t play with any confidence. I am just hoping they took it for granted that they would go out and beat Westmeath easy.”
He’s not sure, though, if that was indeed the case.
“When you are on form, you stay on form. But when you dip at all, it is difficult to get it back. This match against Dublin, they’re going to have to be very careful because they haven’t shown form in the last few matches.”
Fox believes Tipperary’s early summer wobbler stems from the league final hammering — 3-21 to 0-14 — at the hands of Galway in late April. That result, he reckons, “shattered” confidence within the camp.
“You would be expecting more given they are All-Ireland champions, but the Galway defeat, I’d say their confidence was pretty shattered after that. I think it is taking them a while to get over that. When Tipperary went so bad against Galway, it gave everyone a boost. And if you give Cork a boost, you’ll know all about it.”
Dublin, and not Kilkenny or Waterford, thankfully from a Tipperary perspective, were pulled out of the bowl last Monday morning. A further opportunity to get back on the horse. And sure, top-brass are even making Dublin come down and play the second round qualifier in their opponents’ backyard.
“You’d say Dublin is the best draw we could have got, but you have to be very stern in approaching all these games in case you don’t play as well as you can,” Fox continues.
“I am hoping they will get their confidence back and play to the level they are capable of. In the last few matches, they have been way off the mark. The year after winning the All-Ireland, it is difficult to sustain the level which propelled you to the All-Ireland, but hopefully, they’ll come good on Saturday and start to show the form of last summer.
“If they do come back together, they will be contenders for the All-Ireland before the year is out. I’m still confident they can make a comeback in this championship.”
Dublin chairman Sean Shanley, earlier in the week, was hugely critical of Croke Park’s decision to stage the game in Thurles, but it is the Dublin County Board that has come under fire as the game approaches owing to their decision to schedule a number of hurling league games that clash with the 5pm throw-in at Thurles.
The meeting of Ballyboden St Enda’s v Parnells and Kilmacud Crokes v Na Fianna are penciled in for 6.30pm starts, with three of the four clubs having players involved on the Dublin panel.
Peter Kelly, 2013 All-Star, tweeted yesterday that he wasn’t in a position to travel to Semple Stadium to lend his support, given his club, Lucan Sarsfields, are playing a second division league game Raheny at 6.30pm this evening.