Eoin Kelly isn’t the kind of guy with memories of his glory days etched all over his walls. He reckons he might have two, maybe three, mementos of his time with Tipperary on display at home, but walk through the hallway of his parents’ house and your eye will likely alight on a cherished snapshot from Páirc Uí Chaoimh in 2008.
It’s no glossy print, merely an old newspaper clipping from the Monday after a memorable six-point win that ended a run of 85 years without a championship win for the Premier County down by the banks of the Lee.
“I must ask them why it’s up, to be honest with you, because you wouldn’t have paper really up in your hallway,” Kelly said.
“It’s not framed or anything. The goal, the picture is on it, that’s maybe why. The house is not full of those papers, but that one is actually up.”
The goal. This is what people have in mind when they speak of sliding door moments. Tipp were league champions and on the rise, but Cork were just 21 months removed from back-to-back All-Irelands and clinging on to the hope that a great team could peak again.
Any changing of the guard appeared to have been delayed when the Rebels led by eight points through the 23rd minute but then Kelly, marshalled brilliantly by Brian Murphy up to then, fielded a high ball, turned and found the net with a zinger.
Kelly recalls it as one of his best goals for Tipp. And maybe the most important: “Do you know what, it nearly was one of the best because of the circumstance. Tipp were four or five down. Then you are beating Cusack, he is a top-class keeper, and it kind of set up that team then on the journey that they were on in ‘08, ‘09, ‘10.
A good few of the games in those couple of years we delivered those performances and that was one of them because you were saying this is the same old, same old Tipp.
“Then we got the goal, Lar Corbett followed up with a point, so we were one down at half-time, instead of five or six.
At half time we were saying: ‘look, lads game on’. So it was a crucial goal and it was a good goal. You look back on it with fond memories.
The context is more complicated this Sunday when the teams meet again at the same venue, though Cork again approach the occasion from a greater height given their back-to-back Munster titles and All-Ireland semi-final dates than a Tipp side left idle for most of last summer.
Liam Sheedy’s second coming as manager wasn’t helped by a plethora of injuries in the league but the roll call has improved though Michael Cahill, already ruled out this summer with a cruciate issue, has reportedly broken a kneecap in training.
The decision to row back on club commitments during April has mitigated against the potential for greater losses and it should also ensure that they meet the harder ground with much more pep in their step than was the case this time 12 months ago.
Improvements are already visible. Tipp spent a week in Alicante in early March when Eamon O’Shea was a member of the travelling party and Kelly wasn’t the only observer to notice an improvement in the fluidity of the team’s forward play on the back of it. Kelly has had his own input of late too.
“Yeah, Liam asked me to do a bit of work with the free-takers so I was just in one or two nights and just met one or two of them on the side. That’s the way Liam manages. He leaves no stone unturned. It’s a specific job he asked me to do so I said I’d give a hand out.”