Opening day frustrations

Their underage scene shines brightly but life at the senior summit can be a tough gig for a Tipperary footballer.

The championship draw has conjured up a third consecutive meeting with Kerry this Sunday, the type of opponents who prove an impediment to building on substantial underage progress.

Yet despite the arduous Munster ties, it is the difficulty in having a prolonged campaign that frustrates midfielder Hugh Coghlan most.

“I was thinking recently that we were considered to have done well in the last two years against Kerry,” he said.

“We played well for the first half but the final score was a drubbing. What we haven’t had over the last number of years is a very decent championship campaign. It’s frustrating. Collectively it can be difficult to recover losing in Munster as lads start drifting away in different directions.”

Being drained key players has already affected Tipperary with their primary attacking weapon Barry Grogan and midfielder Brian Jones both having departed to America for the summer, yet midfielder George Hannigan empathises with their decision.

“At the beginning it was a kick in the teeth to realise that Barry and Brian were going. But I was talking to a county player last week, he’s in college and doing exams, giving out about training early in the mornings and in the evenings and two matches in one day. Supporters don’t really realise the commitment that’s needed being on county panels. If you’re unemployed and maybe money’s hard to get — often training and matches can be the least of your worries.”

Still there are positive facets to football in the county at present. Hannigan was one of the Tipperary supporters who journeyed down to Páirc Uí Chaoimh last week to see the county qualify for their fourth Munster MFC final in five years.

“They didn’t play well but to go down to Cork and still beat them shows how far our expectations have come with regard to underage. It’s high time that we stepped up to the plate. We have Conor O’Sullivan and Michael Quinlivan in from the minors last year and a good few U21s that won the Munster final a few years ago. We’re longing for this run of consecutive games. We feel we’re good enough but we haven’t got the luck of the draw.”

Coghlan accepts though that translating underage progress into senior success is a difficult task.

“There have been other counties that have had underage success and that has never transferred to senior level. It’s not a natural progression.

“An awful lot of boys falter away but the luxury of the top tier counties is that everybody rows in together and everybody’s driving for the panel. But it’s like any bandwagon, once the journey is victorious and there’s light at the end of it, you’re going to have a lot more people on board. There’s massive credit due to the county board too as the footballers never want for anything. The future can be definitely bright for football.”

For the first time since 2007, Tipperary will enter a championship game this Sunday without John Evans.

“It probably was a surprise when it happened,” admitted Hannigan.

“John felt, in his own words, that he had brought us as far as he could. If you feel that when you’re a manager and you feel you’ve done as much as you can, there’s no point continuing on.”

But their new manager in has generated enthusiasm.

“The boys have enjoyed Peter [Creedon] coming in,” said Coghlan.

“He’s bringing a new sense of freshness to the whole campaign. We had the short game and now we’re progressing on into getting directness into the game. We need to incorporate both alongside each other. It’s something we’ve been doing for the last few games — trying to get it into the danger area a bit quicker. We’re after having an horrendous league campaign going back down to the dumps of Division 4 but we can stop the rot.”


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