Facing into a seven-day turnaround before meeting Cork in a Munster semi-final, the Tipperary manager blasted the Munster fixture-makers who “threw us under the bus”.
He doubled down on his pre-championship criticism, which saw Tipperary boycott the Munster SFC launch, as he raged about how his team have been “handicapped” by “one of the worst decisions” he’s seen.
“It’s a disgrace, an absolute disgrace. The integrity of the competition is being completely compromised. Cork have now got an advantage over us,” began Kearns.
“The stats say that teams with a six-day turnaround don’t win. But we’re determined that it’s not going to be won in a committee room, it’s not going to be won by a committee and it’s not going to be won in a boardroom. It’s going to be won out there on the field.
“We’ll be here in six days’ time and Cork had better turn up ready to play because we’ll be here to play.
“I don’t know how they came up with the decision. A year’s planning and with the stroke of a pen they put it all into jeopardy. I’m over 20 years a manager with counties and clubs, and that decision is one of the worst I’ve been involved with.
“The reason this decision was made was because their own fixtures committee put a hurling and a football fixture (both involving Tipperary in different venues) on the same day. And yet, they threw us under the bus for that.
“It’s an absolute disgrace and that won’t change whatever happens out here next Saturday night.”
Kearns insisted the game could’ve been played on the original date, June 3; the bank holiday Monday, June 4; or preferably June 9 or 10, two weeks before a Munster final and qualifier fixture for both teams.
“There’s 12 teams in Ulster, there’s nine in Leinster, there’s six in Munster, yet they have to force us out twice in seven days. If we win or Cork win, there’ll be a month until the final.
“If you go to racing parlance, they have a group race where all the horses are equal. But now what they’ve made it is a handicap where Tipperary are carrying the weight. We’re giving away advantage to all the rest of the horses in the field. It’s wrong.”
Gavin Crotty’s points in the 28th and 52nd minutes were Waterford’s first points in either half of this non-contest in front of 1,658 spectators, with Tipperary outpointing them six points to nil and 8-0 in those periods.
Leading 0-7 to 0-3 at the break, Tipp shook off the first-half cobwebs to blitz a packed Waterford defence for the next eight points. Michael Quinlivan showed his ability to storm past defenders for two fisted points, but it’s perhaps the contributions of others Kearns will be most happy with in a “mixed bag” performance.
2011 All-Ireland minor-winning captain Liam McGrath kicked nine points, two from play, including frees taken off both feet, on his first championship start. Kevin O’Halloran, Liam Boland, and Jack Kennedy showed flashes of class as they battle for a starting berth. Philip Austin returned from injury with his trademark pacey runs at the tiring Waterford rearguard.
What did stand out as odd, though, was the team which scored the most goals in the league being out-created by Waterford’s Prendergast brothers, with debutant John Meagher blocking from Tommy and Evan Comerford saving from Stephen in either half.
Tipp were happy to settle for points and give the second half a challenge-match feel so soon before that Cork clash.
“Our focus now is on recovery because it has to be. You can do nothing only recover and get back on the field again in six days’ time. We’re playing a fresh team,” said Kearns.
“I read in the Examiner about seven or eight weeks ago that Cork got five clear weeks with their players, and I know that is the case.
“We couldn’t play a challenge match 13 days before this match. We’ve had ours for 13 days, we’ve a six-day turnaround, and yet Cork had them for five weeks.
“This club month is supposed to mean all the counties are treated equally but all the counties are not being treated equally. We’re the only team in the country asked to play twice in seven days in a provincial system. It’s rubbish.”
L McGrath (0-9, 7 frees); M Quinlivan (0-3); K O’Halloran (0-2); J Kennedy, J Feehan, L Boland, J Keane, J Lonergan, P Austin (0-1 each).
J Curry (0-3, 2 frees), T Prendergast, G Crotty (0-2 each); C Murray, JJ Hutchinson (0-1 each).
E Comerford; S O’Connell, A Campbell, J Meagher; B Maher, R Kiely, J Feehan; L Casey, J Kennedy; J Keane, K O’Halloran, B Fox; L Boland, M Quinlivan, L McGrath.
S O’Brien for Kennedy (45), P Austin for O’Halloran (48), K Fahey for Maher (50), J Lonergan for Quinlivan (54), P Codd for Meagher (58), G Hannigan for Casey (66).
S Enright; B Looby, S Prendergast, J McGrath; C Murray; A Trihy, M Curry, S Ryan; K Power, T Prendergast; G Crotty, D Guiry; J Veale, B O’Keeffe; JJ Hutchinson.
J Curry for O’Keeffe (29), C Guiry for Veale (44), J Allen for Power (49-52, blood), Allen for McGrath (58, BC), M Kiely for Power (68), M Cummins for Trihy (71), E O’Brien for Hutchinson (74).
F Kelly (Longford).