Tipperary’s footballers may be losing captain Peter Acheson to Dubai but Conor Sweeney believes their achievements this summer can act as a magnet for some of those lost to the panel this season.
Liam Kearns’ side suffered the departure of over a dozen players for this campaign — whether to injury, hurling, America or Australia — and the manager made mention of that fact after their close-but-no-cigar All-Ireland semi-final loss to Mayo on Sunday.
Recovering even half of those players would be a major boost to the Premier footballers as they seek to build on their momentous summer campaign next season, a job which will kick into gear with another campaign in the depths of Allianz League Division 3.
“If ever there was an incentive for them to come back it’s what we’ve achieved this year,” said Sweeney, the Ballyporeen forward whose seventh term as an inter-county player ended with a personal haul of 3-9.
“Look, the lads will have to make up their own minds. We’ve an open door for anyone. We’ll take anyone. Our panel isn’t the biggest. We need everyone we can and we’ll be starting from scratch again next year so hopefully there might be a few more places for competition.”
What was remarkable about Tipperary last weekend was the ease with which they met the occasion. Kearns insisted that his players simply felt comfortable at a throbbing Croke Park for a last-four game. Sweeney remarked that it simply felt like home.
It’s eight years since Barry O’Brien told Tipperary county board delegates that the county could win a senior football All-Ireland title by 2020 and Acheson told RTÉ yesterday that he can see his old pals at least contesting a final in the next five or six years.
What’s undeniable is that they have a taste for more now.
“Yeah, definitely,” said Michael Quinlivan. “It always intrigues me how the Kilkenny hurlers keep coming back. You don’t really understand it until you play in a game like that yourself: How much it actually means and the experience itself.
“It does stand to you as a person and a player.
“There’s a lot of hurt in that dressing room after that game. Hopefully, we can bottle that and come back. We have a Munster semi-final to look forward to in June. We want to get back to a Munster final as well so there’s things to build on and hopefully we can do that next year.”
It’s encouraging talk even if the hurt of this missed opportunity will linger on for a spell yet. If only they hadn’t conceded that first goal when they were on top. And ditto for the second. But there are ways to take the mind off it.
Tipperary get another shot at All-Ireland senior glory when the hurlers take on Kilkenny in next month’s final. Quinlivan’s Clonmel Commercial clubman and former colleague on the football panel Seamus Kennedy will be featuring. That’s one weekend filled. “I wouldn’t miss that for the world. I’ll try and get a bus from Electric Picnic or something like that!”
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