Tipperary’s emergence as a third footballing power in Munster suffered a double whammy over four days last week.
Tipperary featured in three Munster under 21 finals from 207 to 209 before they finally struck gold with victory over Kerry in 2010 . Couple that with the minor All-Ireland triumph a year later and last year they again annexed Munster minor honours, achievements which had many observers predicting glory days ahead for the Premier boys.
The failure to gain promotion in the league was a disappointment and attributable to a disastrous start to the campaign with losses to Carlow and Waterford. It left no margin for error thereafter, and while good ground was made up, a sub-standard performance against Offaly was one failure too many, and so Tipperary will feature in the bottom division again next Spring.
The odds were stacked against Tipperary in the under 21 final last week. For a start, five of this Cork side were in line for a third consecutive medal, while the bulk of the team was looking for back-to-back medals, a considerable reserve of experience.
On top of that Tipperary went into the contest with serious injury problems. Philip Quirke and T J Ryan, stars of the minor All-Ireland win two years ago, could not start because of injury, while Liam McGrath and Michael Quinlivan, colleagues on that team, carried knocks into the game. To beat this Cork team, Tipperary would have needed them all, fully fit, and performing to their full potential.
David Power is probably the youngest inter-county football manager and his successes at minor level with Tipperary underline how well-equipped he is for the task. He is also a realist, very honest in his analysis, and not one for hiding when things go awry.
“We are very disappointed, but I feel the scoreline does not do us justice”, he said after Wednesday night’s game. A reasonable assessment given that only two points separated the sides at the three-quarter stage, and that Tipperary had missed two second half goal chances before Cork broke upfield for what was to prove the decisive goal. Tipperary also spurned a golden goal opportunity in the 6th minute, lapses that were to prove very costly.
“We had two or three goal chances but did not take them. If we had, it might have been a different game. In the minor All-Ireland those chances went in and that can be the difference. We have to take the good with the bad. Its not nice losing a Munster final but that is life. It’s tough but we have to move on”, he added.
David was not offering the injury problems as an excuse. “ I am not putting forward our injuries as an excuse. These things happen and you get on with it. Cork were the better team, no question about it. We should have been more ahead at half-time and had we got a goal from our first half chances it would have given the team a lift. When Cork got their goal they became very confident and knocked over some great points at the finish”, he said
The manager felt there was a lot of pressure on Tipperary. “ I am disappointed we did not win but maybe we have to lose one to win one. We will just regroup after this and get on with it”, he concluded.
A setback then for Tipperary’s burgeoning reputation in the game, but the talent is still there, the right structures are in place, and perseverance and patience are the key.
And just around the corner there are the Munster minor and senior championships, with Clare and Kerry coming into sight.