Fourteen years might have passed since Tipperary football’s greatest miscarriage of justice but some things don’t change.
Last week, manager Peter Creedon told the Irish Examiner how referee Marty Duffy addressed the Kerry players in last year’s Munster quarter-final by their first names but didn’t extend the same courtesy to Tipperary’s.
Declan Browne could relate to that being on the 1999 team that were the victims of a Kerry goal that should never have been allowed to stand.
The same rules apply and it’s the minnows lose out.
“There are only a set number of referees and they will obviously know the more high profile teams by their first names.
“I wouldn’t necessarily have any problem with that but it does raise a question about whether it helps the big teams and it probably does.
“I mean, when it comes down to a free or another decision, can it matter? That familiarity? You would say yes it would. Like, maybe a Kerry player picking up a yellow card after four fouls compared to one for Tipp. It has to benefit strong teams.”
Browne has spoken before of the Munster quarter-final which took place this weekend 14 years ago and the sense of injustice at Gerry Murphy’s goal after the Rathmore man’s first shot had gone wide but ricocheted back into play. But he has no hesitation in saying had the goal been awarded to Tipp and they won Kerry would have got another day out.
“An apology wouldn’t have mattered but then if the shoe was on the other foot would we have apologised? All we wanted to do was to win the game.
“I’ve said it before, we shouldn’t have come out after half-time. The game was on TV and it was the perfect opportunity to say ‘we were wronged here’.
“But against our better judgement we decided to come out and play the second half. It was crazy at half-time. We had been [verbally] attacking the referee Michael Collins but then how would any other team have reacted? The same way probably.
“It always seemed to be the weaker counties it happens to. If the shoe was on the other foot there probably would have been a replay.
“We should have pursued it, that’s the route we should have gone down. And there was no backdoor either.”
Tomorrow marks the fourth time in as many years that Tipperary have faced Kerry. Since their last Munster win back in 2003, they have played Kerry six times in Munster.
Browne can trump that — in his 12 years he faced Kerry eight times and was never a winner yet he loved facing them simply because he ranked them as the best.
“In ’96, my first year, we’d a right good team — Lambert, Foley, Cummins, Ryan. We were a point down with seven minutes to go and then they went to town on us and it ended up looking anything but close [2-15 to 1-7].
“A year later we also had a great chance when they beat us by five points. We had them on the rack in Tralee and then one of the Kerry lads took a shot, it deflected and Denis O’Dwyer tapped it in. Our luck has never been in against Kerry but it shouldn’t count for anything.
“I just think , looking back, if we had the backdoor system and with the quality of the team we had, we would have made the All-Ireland quarter-finals.
“To win Munster you either have to beat Cork, Kerry or both. It would be great to get a first round win under our belts after 10 years but knowing Peter Creedon to be the proud Corkman that he is, he’ll relish facing Kerry.”
Last week before they beat Armagh, Cavan players spoke openly about the need to do the proverbial or get off the pot in Ulster. For all their underage success in recent years, it had yet to be seen at senior level in the province.
Tipperary aren’t yet so urgent, says Browne. They are the envy of the biggest counties in the development area and will need time to groom their starlets.
“I’d say it’s going to be another couple of years. I’m proud to say we’ve the most feared underage structure in Munster but for the [All-Ireland winning] minors of two years ago it’s going to take time to be able to compete with the likes of the Ó Sés and Paul Galvin physically as much as anything else.
“I think Peter Creedon hit the nail on the head earlier this week when he said it will happen some day. But the other side of that is we’ll need the experienced players like Barry Grogan to stay around as well.”
The call of hurling will always be a difficulty, though, and Browne readily acknowledges it will continue to take precedence even among those who are excelling in both.
“The days of the dual player are definitely gone. Tipperary is big enough to be a dual county but serious hurlers who are brilliant footballers want to play hurling. Unless that changes, Tipperary football will always be under pressure.”
Beating Kerry tomorrow would turn heads, though. “Unless we start winning we’re not going to be feared at senior level. There is a serious group of U15 and U16 footballers coming up and seemingly they’re better than the All-Ireland minor team.
“Unless we stop giving out about being drawn against Kerry and actually take them on, nothing will change. That’s the only way we can keep the show going.
“10 years is a long time since a win in Munster and that was against Waterford. A big scalp is needed and you can see the players involved now are beyond the pats on the backs for moral victories.
“I’m certain Tipperary would have beaten Kerry last year had Barry Grogan stayed home because Kerry were struggling at that stage.
“Kerry will have that in their minds tomorrow and they will be keen to step up to the plate. For the time being, like Sunday, if Tipp win it’ll be because they caught Kerry off-guard and no other reason.”
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