By Noel Dundon
Tipperary’s minor footballers travel to O’Moore Park, Portlaoise on the Bank Holiday Monday afternoon for the All-Ireland quarter final tie against Meath with high hopes of making it to the next stage.
The Premier lads have played some fantastic football this season and have already handed out beatings to Kerry ( in the semi-final) and Cork (in the Munster Final) en-route to their historic quarter final tie.
Showing tremendous character and no shortage of skill so far, this side under the watchful eye of Manager David Power (Kilsheelan) has really captured the imagination and has managed to win over a lot of critics who love the brand of football they are playing. In fact, they even won rave reviews for their Munster Final performance from the ultra critical Sunday Game experts on RTE - now that’s not something to be sneezed at.
David and his co selectors, together with John Evans have managed to assemble a very talented bunch of footballers who have the mental strength to mix it with the big boys. They are not afraid to have a go at teams and have shown in their performances against Cork and Kerry that they have the footballing know-how to unlock opposition defences. Scoring acumen is one thing which has separated this Tipp side from others in the past.
However, Manager David Power has other ideas too as to what makes this team so special. “I suppose the fact that they are not just satisfied with winning the Munster Final makes them different as well. They were not just happy to get to the Munster Final - they wanted to win it. Now it is the same with the All-Ireland quarter final - we are not just happy to be there, we want to win it. We have ambitions and we feel that we deserve respect because of what we have achieved and where we are going,” David told The Tipperary Star this week in advance of the big game.
Admitting that things have gone ‘very well’ for the squad since their stirring victory over Cork in the Munster Final, David was quick to point out that while confidence is flowing at the present time, the players also have their feet very firmly on the ground.
“We have played Austin Stacks seniors and a Rathmore/Kilcrummin U-21 combination team in challenge games and they went very well for us. We used those games to help get back down to earth and things are very settled now. It was a huge achievement to win a Munster Final but it is a different ball game altogether when you go out into the All-Ireland quarter finals,” David said.
This will be Tipperary’s fifth All-Ireland minor football quarter final in nine years, and by far the best chance they have of winning one. Coming on the back of the historic U-14 Jim Power Tournament win recently, the minor provincial victory completed an impressive haul of U-14, U-17, U-16 and U-21 silverwave for The Premier County in just 15 months of activity. That gives an indication of the direction Tipperary football is going and while David cautions patience in bringing that success to the senior code, he is, nonetheless, thrilled to say that football has a bright future in the county.
In terms of Meath, David and the management team have studied their form and are well aware of the kind of threat they pose. Having lost the Leinster minor final to Dublin, they will be smarting and very anxious to get their season back on track. David says, “I suppose we would not be recognised as a football county, especially by the likes of a football stronghold such as Meath. We have seen them and we know what they are capable of. But, we have been more concerned about having our lads right for the game, physically and well as mentally. We have a lot to prove and to do it against Meath, having already beaten Kerry and Cork, would be something. I hope Tipp people come out and support the team because they are deserving of support. They play great football, are exciting to watch, and they need as much support as they can get in Portlaoise,” David said.
Tipperary won the 1998 All-Ireland Junior Football title in the same field - perhaps O’Moore Park can be a lucky omen for the blue and gold jersey.