Colin O’Riordan admits he went through the whole range of emotions watching Tipperary book their place in a first All-Ireland SFC semi-final since 1935.
The Premier County’s AFL export with the Sydney Swans was naturally elated to watch his former colleagues seal a sensational Croke Park quarter-final success against Galway but sad too he wasn’t there to share in the joy.
O’Riordan watched the nine-point victory on his iPad in the early hours of the morning. The game threw in at 1am Sydney time and O’Riordan had his alarm set for 12.55 before settling down in his bed to watch the seismic events unfold.
The 20-year-old smiled: “I watched it all, watched it in bed at home on GAAGO.
“The final whistle blew and honestly, tears started rolling down my face.
“You think the strangest things. I’d go as far as to say I was the happiest man in the world when I saw the game but then you start staring at the ceiling, it dawns on you that you grew up with these lads and that you’d love to be there.
“It wasn’t easy, I did shed a few tears and I’ve no problem saying that. It’s a weird kind of emotion, so happy and to be honest, sad at the same time.
“I can’t really put it into words but, at the end of the day, I’m a proud Tipp man and I want them to succeed and reap the rewards for the effort they’re putting in.”
O’Riordan, a 2011 All- Ireland minor medallist and captain of last year’s Munster U21 winning crop, had no fears about Tipp’s ability to adapt to uncharted territory – as they bounced into Croke Park to produce a blistering display.
“You have lads on that team who haven’t lost a game at Croke Park – hurling or football. It’s a huge stadium and an unreal stadium but it’s only unreal when you win. I read somewhere that was Galway player Shane Walsh’s seventh time playing there and he hasn’t won there.
“But we have lads who played there seven or eight times and won every game.
“It’s a massive advantage for us and the whole fear factor in Croke Park is made up to be something it’s not.
“Underage and up along, we’ve shown we play our best football in Croke Park. “It’s just a matter of getting there.”
Tipp hero Philip Austin, a relative veteran at 30 in a young team, hailed the maturity of his younger teammates. “They’re used to playing on the big stage and they push the rest of us. There’s a lot of leaders on the team, leaders in every line and when you’re looking around the field and you’re out on your feet a little bit, you’re looking for leaders and they stand up then to be heard.”
Austin added: “I think our style of play suited us. We were more economical with the ball which meant we had to do less running. We were doing a lot of kick-passing, which we were trying to do. It worked for us and we didn’t have to cover as much ground but there was a lot of ground to be covered all the same. There were a lot of lads out on their feet.”
Tipp hit Galway time and time again with strike runners from deep, as Austin, Peter Acheson, Bill Maher, Robbie Kiely and Jimmy Feehan cut through the massed ranks.
Austin said: “That’s what we go training for, to practice these styles of play. When it finally comes to fruition, it’s great to see, it’s marvellous really. We’ve line-breakers all through the field and everybody pops the ball off to the man.
“Everybody has great trust in the player they’re playing beside and they’re fighting for them. You can ask for no more, really.”
Austin has backed Tipp’s backroom staff to have their homework done ahead of a semi-final clash with Tyrone or Mayo on August 21.
“We’ll enjoy ourselves for the next couple of days and then we’ll reassess next weekend after we see the game (quarter-final).
“We have a great backroom staff and they do unbelievable video analysis. We’ll go and train and they’ll have everything picked out for us. They’ll have a game-plan in position and we’ll see what we can do.”
O’Riordan sees no reason why Tipperary can’t go any further this season.
“It’s the year of the underdog, hopefully. Obviously, Mayo or Tyrone is another big challenge but Galway did Mayo in Connacht and it’s inches between every team. If a team gets a run on you, you’re in trouble but we have nothing to fear.”
Unfortunately, he doesn’t think he’ll make it home for the semi-final due to club commitments.
“I don’t think so, to be honest, unless things go pear-shaped in the club. But I’ll be glued to the game. I bought The Sunday Game highlights so that I could watch what they said at night-time as well.
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