The fact that Jason Lonergan was prepared to charge from his own 45-yard line to the opposition’s ’21 and win a free in the 61st minute of the Munster under-21 football final best illustrates the pride this group of Tipperary footballers have in their work. The determination of the Tipperary players to fight to the last in Páirc Uí Rinn on Wednesday was more than endearing.
Manager David Power, however, was not a happy man at the final whistle. David Power has ambitions for Tipperary football. And, those ambitions are not being realised. Indeed, David Power has called for the club structures in the county to be examined.
“We’re extremely disappointed. In the first ten or fifteen minutes they got a real good grip at midfield and they drove on from there. It’s just disappointing I suppose because there’s a better performance in us. The big heartening thing is that we kept in it. We created more goal chances. Look, it’s just disappointing when you know there is more in them,” David Power told the Tipperary star.
“Cork are a good team, but what’s killing us is playing down in division four and the club structures as well. Cork are playing at a higher level the whole time. They have two main colleges in the Sigerson Cup as well and that’s hard. I’m very, very proud of my players. They kept plugging away and you just have to keep at it. We just have to keep going.”
Three years ago Tipperary famously won an All-Ireland title at minor level. Since then, however, a gap in the development of the Tipperary players has emerged.
“The next step is to get back on the training field and work harder and harder. That’s the big thing about it. We have to work so, so hard because they (the players) are coming in from really poor club structures in Tipperary. We only have a couple of good senior football teams and that’s hard. That’s not criticizing anyone; that’s just what’s there in Tipperary at the minute. Until we improve the club structures it will be very hard to compete against Cork who have 95% of their team in UCC and CIT playing top level colleges football when we only had one fella playing Sigerson Cup this year and that’s Michael Quinlivan. It’s very, very, very hard to compete with that,” David Power explained.
“If Tipp are to make the next step we have to look at those structures. We have to get lads playing Sigerson and we have to get lads playing freshers if we really, really want to compete at this level. To only lose by four or five points is great credit (to the players). We kept at it because at times Cork just over ran us,” David Power added who was joined on the management team by selectors Gerry McGill, Pat Moroney and coach Pat Flanagan.
“Tipp have only won one under-21 title. I think we have been in five, six or seven Munster under-21 finals in the last ten years and we have only won one. There has to be a reason behind that. Until we in Tipperary start looking at that we might still get to Munster finals, but we are not going to win them.
“On the night Cork were the best team and fair dues to them, but we have to keep at it. We have to go back to the drawing board. It’s not all doom and gloom, but we have to start looking at the structures to make sure that we have players playing at the highest level possible. At the end of the day Tipperary are down in division four and Cork are in division one and they could probably win division one. That’s a massive gap and that’s the reality of it. Cork have five or six under-21 players playing senior football in division one while we had three or four playing division four. We have to try to get up to that level and it’s not easy.
On Wednesday night David Power, one of the sincerest and committed GAA coaches that you are ever likely to meet, had a look of resignation about him. As of now David Power’s reign as under-21 manager has come to an end, but, surely, every effort should be made to retain a coach of his quality.
“There is still a core group of them underage (for 2015), but I have been with them now for five years so we are going to have to have a look at it now and decide where to go next. There’s a lot of work (to do). It’s easy to say there is this 2020 vision to win an All-Ireland senior title, but there is serious amount of work to be done for that to happen,” David Power concluded.