Tipperary may be celebrating their hurlers’ successful journey through the back door and into an All-Ireland semi-final, but Brendan Cummins believes difficult decisions need to be made as the county continues to juggle big ambitions in both codes.
Peter Creedon’s footballers made a disappointing exit from the championship against Galway last weekend, 24 hours before their hurling counterparts defeated Dublin, but it was a summer that again pinpointed their potential. Cummins served both masters during his inter-county days and so speaks with knowledge of both camps. He fears the county falling between two stools as they look to compete with the Kerrys and Kilkennys of this world.
“The whole dual player debate has opened up big time now,” he said. “It’s happening in Tipp at minor grade now. Believe it or not, some of our good hurlers are going to the football.
“We have maybe struggled at minor level because of that. The players are splitting their loyalties because football is becoming more high-profile at underage.
“Remember, they are winning at U16 and U14 tournaments against Cork and Kerry so when the bus goes off now they are not saying ‘we are going to get hammered’.
“They are saying ‘we are going to beat Kerry and Cork, that’s what we do’ kind of thing. That filters up as they get older. It is a problem in Tipp and they may have to make a decision the way the game is gone.”
The issue of dual players continues to confound nationally with one side extolling the virtues of those striving to excel at both codes and another insisting that modern players simply cannot perform to their peak serving two masters. Cummins belongs in the latter camp.
Though he played for both sides year on year for close to a decade, his involvement with the footballers stretched to, at most, one training session per week and a match.
“I’d nearly go in and say ‘well lads, I’m Brendan’,” he joked.
“The way the modern game is now I couldn’t do a one-to-one with the manager every month, I couldn’t do a weights session two or three times a week with the footballers to get that camaraderie that is needed.”
Tipp, unlike Cork or Clare, didn’t have anyone active in both squads this summer, but the dilution of resources is apparent with underage records showing that they have qualified for a dozen U21 and minor Munster finals in each code this last decade. But Cummins believes Eamon O’Shea’s hurlers are in a good place ahead of next month’s meeting with Cork.
“We’ve a good chance. I think it will end up being a shootout and I’d back our forwards to win a shootout. The Cork defence in the Munster final, they let in 24 points and Limerick had a goal chance they didn’t take. I’d fancy Larry (Corbett) or Seamie (Callanan) if they got the same opportunities. Tipp are in a good space at the moment. Defensively, we still have a few problems, but the flipside is if you’re scoring enough, you’ll win most matches.”
He can vouch for that. Cummins, playing at wing-forward, scored 19 points for Ballybacon/Grange against Cahir in a recent South Intermediate Championship tie – 10 of the scores coming from frees, five from open play, three from 65s and one from a sideline ball. The winning margin was eight points. It wasn’t until he picked up a local paper some days later that he realised the tally and he joked yesterday about how the ensuing interest may work against him next time out.
“The next fella I’m going to be on will be a little bit different thanks to this. I could be seeing my next report for a club game from A&E!
“We’re down to play Shane McGrath’s Ballinahinch over the weekend so it would be interesting to get a half an hour on Shane and see where I’m at.”
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