“Life is good,” reports Peter Acheson down the phone-line from the United Arab Emirates.
Even better, he says, if the wonders of streaming Tipp FM provides him with evidence this evening that Tipperary are scalping Cork for a second time in three years.
That he won’t be soldiering with them doesn’t gnaw as much at the former captain as it would have last year but for this evening at least his heart won’t lie in his Dubai apartment.
“I’d love if Tipp was out here in Dubai, that the All-Ireland was here but you can’t have everything in life and you have to make sacrifices unfortunately.”
Now 21 months in the Middle East, the 28-year-old can’t see himself leaving for another year at the minimum.
Operations manager for the UAE with dewatering company Hydroserv, established by Carlow man Tom Doyle and Kerry’s Barry O’Sullivan, work couldn’t be going any better.
The company is flourishing (former Donegal forward Ryan Bradley is Acheson’s equivalent in Qatar) and his girlfriend Roisín and himself adore the lifestyle.
“I wanted to go away myself and I was attracted to America for work and football and she was happy to go anywhere. We were looking at New York or Boston and then we said we’d try Dubai for a year. She had cousins out here and had been here three or four times and I said it didn’t bother me whatsoever where we go. We said we’d try it for a year and if we didn’t like it we could go home. I love the place and I’ll be here for another year at least, maybe even longer.
“We’re closer to the city now, we signed a new lease there recently so another nine months. Most apartment blocks have a pool on the top and a gym on the first floor, free to use. We’re five minutes to the beach and 20 or 30 restaurants within a few minutes’ walk and a supermarket. A bit like Dublin with the sun every day.”
Soon after arriving in Dubai, Acheson was playing with Jumeriah Gaels. “The football club, it starts from September so after three weeks I was down training with the lads three times a week and then the soccer started after that. I was flat out playing sport and got to meet hundreds of people. The sports community is great here. I’ve lifetime friends already.”
Acheson is still partial to partaking in the lively Friday and Saturday nights out but it was for work that he left home and it’s his career that now takes precedence. Dubai promised him something Ireland couldn’t deliver.
“I said it many times but there was never a right time to go and I left personally after a great year. Of course, I would have loved to play for another two or three years but I probably then wouldn’t have had the option, I would have been 30 or 31 and coming back later.
“I had been thinking about it for two or three years and the one year I decided to stay happened to be our best one for 80 years. There is a lot more people putting work first and their preferences first. Some people are happy to stay at home and each to their own.”
He remains in touch with the people he left behind and he knows his friends expect to beat Cork even if they have been treated shabbily in terms of the quick turnaround from the Waterford win.
“It is very unfair on Tipperary and thankfully it seems like all the lads came through the last day but they should have another six or seven days for the likes of (Conor) Sweeney and (Steven) O’Brien to be right. Even the likes of (Philip) Austin coming back from injury. Another two weeks of training for him would be massive. They should have been treated the same as anybody else.”
In Tipperary there have regularly been fights for football to be heard and respected. Even if the scheduling of this evening’s game indicates they haven’t gone away, Acheson believes the group have to look beyond those old arguments to progress.
“Six years ago we would have been struggling to beat Waterford by a point or two. We would have been beaten by them before and now people are saying it was a boring game that Tipp kind of struggled in at times and yet they won by 11 points. When you look at it like that, it shows how far Tipp have come.
“I think we used to relish it was us against the world in years gone past and our backs were to the wall. But we’re evolving and close to the top eight in the country now. We shouldn’t have to be fighting these battles anymore and looking to get to a Munster final every year and hopefully beat Kerry at some stage on an off-day and getting to the Super 8s.”
One fight Acheson believes Kearns avoided was a clash over style with the players. There was too much flair within the ranks to consider anything other than attractive football.
“John Evans and (Peter) Creedon would have brought it on then Liam added a bit more. It was half Liam’s guidance and half the players that he had. There were a lot of ex-soccer players and lads who really wanted to play football and I don’t think they would keep playing if they didn’t play that brand. That would have made Liam’s decision easier.
“The minor team that won the All-Ireland was full of soccer players and there are several there now who like to be on the ball and doing something with it. Of course, you need good defenders and we’ve a good few of them who are comfortable in possession. It’s about Liam playing to the strengths of the team and not worrying if they’re losing the ball on the 21-yard-line. He wants us to play the ball out and express ourselves.
“It’s something we need too because with Tipperary being a hurling county if young fellas watch the lads play and it’s exciting there would be more of an appeal for them. We need that. You obviously have to win games too but it’s about getting that mix.”
The loss of the “irreplaceable” Ciaran McDonald to enforced retirement at the end of last year on top of Acheson’s emigration and Colin O’Riordan’s switch to Australian Rules would hurt most counties but Tipperary in particular.
And yet he sees Liam McGrath picking off nine points against Waterford and a bench of substance.
“For the first time I think ever we have five, six, seven subs who we can bring on to make a difference. They obviously didn’t show their full hand last weekend because this Cork game is massive for them.”
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