TOMMY DUNNE has described the criticism that Tipperary received in the aftermath of last May’s Munster championship defeat to Cork as “over the top” and believes their impressive performance against Waterford in the All-Ireland semi-final has provided a timely injection of confidence as they bid to topple Kilkenny in Sunday’s decider.
“Of what criticism I read, I felt was over the top,’’ he said. “Any time the criticism is personal, is unfortunate. But the most critical thing is that the management and players learnt themselves from the performance and are strong enough to come back from the bad days.
“The aftermath of the Cork game probably strengthened the bond in the team. They’ve showed a lot of character since Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which you have to give them credit for.
“I was impressed with them against Waterford. They played with a lot of intelligence and didn’t allow the main Waterford fellas to dominate.
“They’ll get a lot of confidence from that. Tipp have huge belief in their ability. I didn’t think last year Tipp would get within six points of Kilkenny because we’d a very young team. I was saying Kilkenny would railroad this Tipp team. But Tipp had a sincere belief in their ability and played like that on the day. Now Tipp are in a great position with no real pressure.”
The Waterford game featured a stellar display from Tipperary attacker John O’Brien who has flitted in and out of the county line-up in recent seasons. But as a Toomevara clubmate of O’Brien, Dunne was always acutely aware of the capabilities that the forward possessed.
“We know all about Johnno in Toome,’’ Dunne said. “He’s a very talented player, who is vastly experienced and is capable of producing those type of performances.
“Johnno contributed to the 2001 championship in a serious way. He came on down in Páirc Uí Chaoimh in the Munster final in 2001 and hit two points from play in a game we won narrowly. Johnno would feel he probably should be on the team and he proved his point very well (against Waterford).’’
Another Toomevara resident is well placed to offer Tipperary advice on how to derail five-in-a-row All-Ireland title bids. Seamus Darby’s place in GAA folklore is already assured and in a neat quirk of fate, Tommy’s brother Benny will wear number 20 on Sunday, just like Darby did back in 1982.
“It’d be great if someone could come in and do what Darby did,” said Dunne. “Seamus was captain of the Toomevara golf society there for a couple of years. Seamus would be a very popular figure in Toomevara and his status is legendary now.
“I do think we’ve a great chance but Kilkenny will be overwhelming favourites and I wouldn’t argue with that. I fancied Tipp to win at the start of the championship. I thought we’d be in the final through a different road though, going in as Munster champions. They are still going in, in a great position with no real pressure.”
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