Longer summers power Tipp’s growth cycle

Longer and longer run Tipperary’s summers, higher and higher their graph climbs.

It was interesting to hear Brian Fox during the week talk about how defeat above in Breffni Park last Saturday would have considerably weakened their hand ahead of the 2018 season.

Parking the obvious disappointment of exiting the championship, the Tipperary captain felt such a long break away from the set-up wouldn’t have done the Premier footballers any favours when they begin life in Division 2 next spring.

“Because we did so well last year, we were training together for longer. Stuff like that helped when you came back this year, you hadn’t lost your fitness as much and you hadn’t been out of contact with some of the lads for as long. It was that bit easier.

“Had we lost last weekend, it wouldn’t be ideal going into next year.”

Fox’s comments are reflective of the changed mindset within Tipperary football. When he joined the squad in 2008, their summer routinely ground to a halt in early July.

And nobody batted an eyelid or gave consideration to how four months apart might affect their Division 3 or 4 efforts the following February.

Indeed, the sole reason they were still involved beyond mid-July during his first season in camp is that the qualifiers started later than usual, owing to the Tommy Murphy Cup and the reduced number of teams travelling through the backdoor as a result. Over the subsequent five campaigns, they would only once survive beyond today’s date.

Had Tipperary drawn Armagh during those years, according to former Premier footballer Peter Lambert, an Orchard victory would have been the only conceivable result. Not anymore.

Ahead of last year’s All- Ireland semi-final, corner- forward Conor Sweeney said the team’s goal for 2017 had to be reaching a second consecutive Munster final.

“If you get to a provincial final, you’ve one game in the qualifiers. That’s serious,” remarked Sweeney. “The last few years, we’ve been playing three or four games in the qualifiers and, by the time we get to the last 12, the body is just not right. You’ve taken serious hits.”

Lambert, though, believes a path can still be woven back to Croke Park in early August.

“At the moment, yes, they are following a more precarious road to Croke Park, but when you’re ticking off Cavan, and if you can get past Armagh, that’s real consolidation of your position and consolidating your progress. If the graph is going in the right direction, and it is, you always feel that there is going to come a point in time when these guys are going to click on the big day.

“If I was in the camp, I’d probably have had sleepless nights about not closing it out against Cork. They’ve bounced back with the result against Cavan.

"They were fearless in the second half against Cavan. Armagh coming down to Thurles is no David versus Goliath. It is two teams of similar quality and ambition.

"Our expectation five or six years ago is that Armagh would account for Tipperary. Now we are expecting that they beat Armagh and go on again.”

From the side which lined out against Cavan, nine started last year’s All-Ireland semi-final. Into the team has come Jack Kennedy, Liam Boland, Liam Casey and Kevin O’Halloran and, with Philip Austin returning from injury in Breffni Park, Lambert is of the opinion that the class of 2017 is stronger than last year’s outfit.

“They probably didn’t get back all the lads they wanted to get back, but I would say they are marginally stronger in most lines, bar midfield, where it is very hard to replace Peter Acheson,” said Lambert.

“They got to an All-Ireland semi-final as a surprise package, but they don’t want people talking about them in that sense anymore.

"They want people saying that Tipperary are going to feature so long as this group of players are around. Aside from Kerry, Dublin, and Tyrone, it wouldn’t be off-the-wall to be confident if you were facing all the other teams.

"Were they to get past Armagh, you’d be looking at, potentially, Down or Kildare in the fourth round. I don’t think Tipperary would fear either of those sides.

“Promotion to Division 2 has already laid the foundation for further progress in 2018, but it is important to keep the championship journey going for another couple of weeks.”


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