There were times when Tipperary football teams were beaten before they even set foot on the pitch.
I was on one or two of those teams myself. I wouldn’t call it an inferiority complex, just a kind of a hang-up about who you were playing. A nagging feeling that you were probably going to lose.
It didn’t help when you were consistently coming up against Kerry in a knockout Championship. My Championship debut was in 1996 against Kerry, beaten 2-15 to 1-7. That was that for the year.
We won a few games in the following years but Kerry still knocked us out in 1997, 1998, and 1999, and we lost our opening game to Clare in 2000. That was my first five years with Tipp.
Don’t get me wrong, we had some good players and some good teams and we’d sometimes run Kerry close but it was generally more hope than expectation on our part.
This Tipperary team now, the Quinlivans, the Sweeneys, the Austins, the O’Riordans, what they have is priceless because they actually strike a bit of fear into who they’re playing against.
I know Cork were worried about them, and with good reason. I think Mayo will be the same and they’re going to have to come up with a gameplan to counteract all those lads.
The emphasis now is on how good Tipp are whereas before you could pick out one or two players and if you stopped those, you had a good chance of winning. These guys are just so confident. It’s not cockiness or arrogance, just a confidence that comes from winning All-Ireland minor medals, Munster club medals, Munster senior inter-county medals. I genuinely don’t think they fear anyone.
It galls me a bit when I hear people saying they might be as well off losing to Mayo, to avoid a hiding from Dublin the next day.
If Dublin do make the final as everyone expects, sure they’re going to beat 27 or 28 other teams in the country handily anyway. So what’s there to really fear?
I’d much prefer to be looking forward to that final and afterwards, whatever happens, we’d have made huge progress. We’d have been All-Ireland finalists, not a team that was knocked out as everyone expected in the last four.
And hey, aren’t we being subtly guided by the hidden hand of fate anyhow? Maybe what will be, will just be. After winning the Munster title on the Bloody Sunday anniversary weekend, the stars might even align to allow Colman Kennedy to break Dublin’s hearts all over again in an All-Ireland final, like he did so memorably as a minor in 2011.
That was one of the best days of my life as a Tipp supporter and I can only imagine what it did for that group of players.
They must be best friends, tight as a drum I’d say.
I'd feel for the one or two players that aren't involved.
My own clubmate Peter Acheson was Tipp captain when we reached the All-Ireland semi-final in 2016 but moved to Dubai for work soon after. He’s in Qatar now.
He came back for our county championship with Moyle Rovers in 2018, for a quarter-final, semi-final, and final which we won. It just shows how good a player he is that he could slot back in like that. He’s still only 30 and I know he’d love to have been part of this.
The flipside is that if the Championship was played last summer as it was supposed to be, we wouldn’t have had Michael Quinlivan, Liam Casey or Colin O’Riordan. And if that was the case, we wouldn’t have been talking about winning Munster titles.
It’s an ill wind that blows no good I suppose. It’s just a pity we can’t all celebrate the provincial win properly, like it was meant to be celebrated.
I’ll be honest, I’d sacrifice next year if it meant we got to properly acknowledge the scale of that achievement. The cup didn’t even leave Cork after the Munster final.
It should have been brought on a tour of Tipperary, the players should have been signing autographs and posing for photos for months. We have six lads from the club on the panel, the physio is involved as well. We’d only love to honour them in some way, get a bit of a crowd in.
My fear is that it might just all fizzle out after Christmas.
A few people have said to me, ‘Sure can’t you celebrate in six months time when things have opened up again’. But we might have the 2021 Munster championship played by then.
Tipp football needs to harness every opportunity to win over the hearts and minds of young players.
The killer for us is that you see so many great players coming up as far as minor and then choosing hurling.
You can nearly pick out 10 of the minor hurling panel each year, or even from the team itself, who would have been on the football team. We lose those guys every year, year after year, which is a pity.
That’s just the way it is, hurling is number one in the county but what we have now is a huge chance to get into the heads of those fellas at 16 or 17 and to make them think, ‘You know what, I’ll give this football a go’.
There’s a lot of people who have got us to this point, a lot of players, administrators, coaches, parents. David Power is at the top of that list because the work he has done, going right back to development squad level, has been incredible. That bond he has with this group of players now must be near unbreakable.
They’ve had a bit of luck too. I’m thinking about Limerick’s Seamus O’Carroll here and the mark he kicked wide at the end of extra-time. Or maybe that was fate again, who knows.
Either way, it’s been a year of years for Tipp and I fancy there’s a bit left to run.