Tipperary’s premier journey only beginning

Tommy Toomey called his players into the dressing room at Semple Stadium on the Tuesday evening after their historic All-Ireland U21 semi-final win.

Training had been flat and Toomey wanted to know where his players were at. Neither their attitude nor application on the field had been up to scratch.

Were Tipperary’s emerging crop content with having claimed the scalp of Dublin? Were they content with a first All-Ireland U21 final appearance? Were they content to bask in the garlands drowning their feet?

The discussion was frank, honest.

“We asked the lads what was their ambition,” revealed Toomey.

“Have we done it now, was asked of the lads. Sometimes you get to a point and you wonder can you play any better. We asked the lads can they play better than they did in the semi-final. Is this it? Have we peaked? Are you individually ready to step up to that next step?

“I am very happy with the content of that meeting and the honesty of players.

“You ask those questions because as a manager you want to get a certain type of response. I wanted to get the positivity out of it. I am realistic enough to know that we are moving into areas where Tipperary haven’t been before. We have lads in our panel who have All-Ireland minor medals at both codes. That has been a switch-on for us that the winning mentality is there.

“The overall picture in the players’ heads is we are good enough to win this. We learned that on Tuesday evening.”

Turning to the bigger picture of Tipperary’s football revolution, Toomey doesn’t believe victory is imperative in their 2020 vision of delivering Sam Maguire to the Premier County.

“A victory would be huge for Tipperary football. It wouldn’t be the culmination of our journey, however. Rather, it is another starting point, win or lose. The reason I am saying that is because, in some counties, winning an underage All-Ireland can finish players. The attitude is; ‘this is what I set out to do and have it done’.

“The questions these lads will ask themselves after Saturday, win or lose, is have I the grá or the want to continue on and play senior football, knowing that Tipperary are a third division team. This is another step in our journey and I know what the collective response will be after Sunday.”

Toomey credits the sowing of seeds back in 2007, when John Costigan put in place eight coaches to spread the football bible in Tipperary, for fostering a positive attitude towards football in the county.

“John Costigan and his committee, having visited several other counties, put the necessary structures in place to improve the standard and commitment of young players, to improve their lifestyle, to improve their strength and conditioning and impress upon them what they needed to be doing at 14, 15 and 16 in line with what lads of similar age were doing in Cork and Kerry.

“We got eight coaches in — two to a division for a six-week period — and the players started to enjoy it. There was no fall-off. There was full attendance.

“Players came and they learned both about the game and themselves. They learned they could be winners. They went into tournaments in Munster and they started to win them. We won three Munster U16 titles between 2008 and 2010. They began to get real pride and the message was hammered home that they could win these games.”

We asked the lads can they play better than they did in the semi-final. Is this it? Have we peaked?


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