Tipperary U21 boss TJ Connolly is relishing the opportunity to complete a clean sweep of Munster hurling titles for the Premier County.
Tipperary have never secured the trio of Munster senior, U21 and minor crowns in one season, but with the two titles secured on Sunday, expectation is mounting on Connolly’s side to finish the job and make history.
His U21 team to face Limerick in this evening’s semi-final would appear as well equipped as any to deliver provincial glory, featuring as it does senior panellists Michael Breen, Ronan Maher, Barry Heffernan and Bill Maher.
Also included are UL Fitzgibbon Cup winner John McGrath and Tipperary footballer Colin O’Riordan.
“It has been said to me that there is wicked pressure on us to get a win, pressure on us not to be the first Tipperary team knocked out of the championship, but I don’t see it as pressure,” the manager remarked.
“I see it as motivation to try and keep the ball rolling. We are under no illusions that Limerick are a coming force at this age group, they are on their home turf and will be very hard to stop. They are coming off the back of a hard weekend so they will have all guns blazing. While we are coming off an excellent weekend, we still have to do our own work.
“We are not going to win on Thursday simply because Tipperary scored two big wins on Sunday. We have to go and be our own team, put aside what everyone did over the weekend, concentrate fully on ourselves and churn out a decent performance.
“We have massive leaders in our set-up. They spoke on Monday night and they don’t see it as pressure, they see it as motivation not to be part of the sole Tipperary team to be dumped out of the championship.”
Driving Connolly’s charges too is the sense of regret from the 2014 campaign. Eight of this evening’s team were in Cusack Park last July when Aaron Cunningham’s late, late point scuppered Tipperary’s semi-final bid against the then two-in-a-row All-Ireland champions. The home outfit would hit two goals in extra-time to seal victory.
“It was a long and hard winter to swallow what happened down there. To be so near and so close, but not to come away with the prize was frustrating. Moral victories aren’t any good to this team or management. We’ve been waiting a long time for July 16 to come.
“We have been going full tilt in our preparations since the Fitzgibbon Cup and All-Ireland U21 football championship ended. On that note, I have to say what a huge plus it is to have Colin O’Riordan. He has been 100% behind us all year.
“You can be sure he won’t be thinking of Tyrone (and the All-Ireland SFC qualifier) on Thursday, he’ll be doing everything to secure another win for Tipperary hurling.
“That is the kind of fellas he is.”
P Maher (Moyne Templetuohy); J Peters (Kilruane MacDonaghs), M Breen (Ballina), T Fox (Eire Óg Anacarty); R Maher (Thurles Sarsfields), B Heffernan (Nenagh Éire Óg), T Hamill (Moyne Templetuohy); B Maher (Kilsheelan Kilcash), S Cahill (Thurles Sarsfields); B McCarthy (Thurles Sarsfields), P Shanahan (Upperchurch Drombane), W Connors (Kildangan); T Gallagher (Kildangan), C O’Riordan (JK Brackens), J McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney).
D McCarthy (Glenroe); M O’Callaghan (Knockaderry), R English (Doon), M Casey (Na Piarsaigh); D Byrnes (Patrickswell), B O’Connell (Kildimo/Pallaskenry), G Hegarty (St Patrick’s); D O’Donovan (Doon), P Ryan (Doon); R Hanley (Kilmallock), R Lynch (Na Piarsaigh), D Dempsey (Na Piarsaigh); K O’Brien (Patrickswell), T Morrissey (Ahane), C Lynch (Patrickswell).
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