Tipperary manager Liam Kearns admitted his team failed to build on their dream start in yesterday’s Munster SFC final in Fitzgerald Stadium.
The Premier County shocked their Kerry hosts when Jimmy Feehan scored inside a minute. But crucially they didn’t score a point from play in the first-half and never led after Paul Murphy’s goal put Kerry 1-4 to 1-3 ahead on 17 minutes.
“We had a good start but we maybe needed to get more than we did,” Kearns said.
“I felt we conceded a few scores in the first-half that we shouldn’t have and then at the other end we missed a few chances we should have converted. Certainly, in the second-half, I felt there were another two goals and maybe a few points that were there for us. But you felt they could go down the other end and get scores if they needed them. I think that they just had a little bit too much for us.
“We struggled at times, but the big thing - the gulf between us - was the benches.”
Tipperary found it difficult to make headway against the Kerry defence, with Kearns surprised that the Kingdom sat so deep.
“I’d have to say, they played everybody behind the ball, which surprised us,” he said.
“It’s difficult to score against a massed defence and that’s what it was for a lot of the first-half. That did surprise us, we weren’t expecting that. Maybe they’re thinking further down the line but we were surprised by it, a lot of the time it made it difficult to get shots off.”
That approach from Kerry meant Tipp were often forced to go short on their own kick-outs which resulted in energy-sapping forays upfield.
“We won 10 out of our 12 kick-outs and I think we won an awful lot of them in the second-half also,” Kearns said. “We had a long way to go but, in fairness, they did push up on the kick-outs and put a lot of pressure on our players. It was important we retained the ball and when we won it they drew back to the 45 and got everybody behind the ball and that made it very difficult to get at them. Once we got past the 45, we created chances and we were causing problems for them but maybe we didn’t do it enough.”
Kearns also revealed star attacker Michael Quinlivan was unwell prior to the game. “Michael was actually sick Saturday night so he did well in the circumstances,” Kearns said, “he was up most of the night with a bug. He probably wasn’t at his best either but I’d agree the quality of the ball into him maybe wasn’t what it could have been.”
A three-week break before their next game in the qualifiers will allow Tipp to prepare sufficiently, while Kearns hopes “one or two” players might be added to the panel by then.
“We probably won’t go back until the weekend I’d say and we’ll look at that then. We’re in the last 12 so we owe it to ourselves to have a good crack at that. It’s well-documented the number of players we’re missing but the bottom line is that you have to come back stronger and better.”
As for the All-Ireland chances of his native county, Kearns remained unconvinced.
“In my heart, I’d say yes but in my head, I’d say no. The style of football and I’d say pace might be an issue. They have the forwards alright, if they got everybody fit, maybe. They might find, when it comes to the All-Ireland that they might be lacking in a few areas.
“They’re working at it and Eamonn thinks about it a lot. I’ve no doubt they’ll improve. They need to.”
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