Doubt surrounded them but it never forced entry into Seamus Callanan’s mind.
Not when they lost to Kilkenny in the final in 2011. Or again in 2014. Not when they were squeezed out by Galway in last year’s semi-final or in any of the other big games you could care to mention that closed their doors with Tipp locked out on the wrong side of a one-point game.
They must have heard the mutterings. Flawed. Mentally weak. Flaky. Everyone knew that this had to be the day those barbs were decommissioned. Callanan put it best when he admitted “it was time enough for us to start inflicting the hurt on other teams”.
It is that backdrop that makes the manner of yesterday’s success so remarkable. Tipp tallied 10 unsuccessful shots on the posts in the firs half and conceded what in other years would have been a sucker-punch goal after the interval.
Then they went and did, well, that.
“Losing is hard to take,” said Callanan. “Everyone has their goals and when you don’t achieve them it is very hard to take, but there was never a second when one person inside that Tipperary dressing room ever thought it’s time to throw it all away or ‘I don’t want to go again’.
“Everybody wanted another chance, redemption, to fulfil aspirations that we would have for each other. We see the work that goes in every year, so my God we are not going to let each other down and give up on something that is our dream. No way, not for anybody.” Callanan’s story could be Tipp’s in microcosm.
No-one has ever doubted his abilities but the Drom & Inch full-forward has had his critics in a career that has ebbed and flowed through his early seasons when he bagged a pair of All Star nominations to the mid-cycle dip and back to the heights he managed yesterday.
It’s not like he is alone in that.
Callanan made the point himself that men as lauded and decorated as TJ Reid and Richie Hogan — both of them former hurlers of the year — have had to spent their time sitting on benches before emerging as team leaders under Brian Cody’s watch.
“Look, you’ll have dips in form. You’ll have different management. Eamon O’Shea came in and showed massive belief in me as a person and as a player. He gave me responsibility. He gave me a licence to be myself on a pitch whereas maybe I was feeling restrained before.
"It’s all about growing and developing as a player and that happens with experience and years on the panel. I suppose I’m just in the peak of my career, I’m 28 in two weeks, so I’d like to think there are a few good years left in me.”
That craning of the neck towards the future was intriguing.
Michael Ryan made more than one mention last night about 2017 and the hurling yet to be done. It all contributed to a feeling that this Tipperary team is determined to learn from the county’s past when one All-Ireland stood as an island rather than amidst a cluster on the roll of honour.
Liam Sheedy was lost to the project after the 2010All-Ireland win and momentum drained away with him. Six years later and the county has the opportunity to make up for lost time. Some continuity in the dugout would go a long way towards that.
“Absolutely. The aim and the goal is to have something we are all used to and cemented. The (management) are top class. That’s their decision but I hope they’ll be there for years to come. As a group you don’t want to leave a five or six-year gap like that again, but you can’t look forward like that. You have to take every training session and every match as it comes.”
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