FOLLOWING the dramatic win over Kilkenny on Saturday Tipp captain Eddie Connolly admitted that the Premier’s recent 18-point senior reverse suffered at the hands of Cats was on the minds of the players.
“Yeah, it was,” the Loughmore-Castleiney man explained.
“I was in Croke Park two weeks ago and I would say that a good few of the other players were too.
“Everyone was sick and every Tipp supporter has had that in their head for the last two weeks,” Eddie Connolly said.
In a devastating opening half Tipperary hit Kilkenny with 2-6 without reply during a particularly dominant period and led 3-9 to 0-6 at the break.
“It was looking good for thirty minutes that we were going to turn the tables and do the same thing to what they did to Tipp two weeks ago, but then we went and let them back in it,” Eddie Connolly said.
“Look, everyone was hurting and we wanted to do our bit. The minors can do their bit now next week and we can go into next year with a bit of optimism. It’s not really about how you fall down. It’s about getting back up. The seniors will be back.”
Despite trailing by twelve points at the break Kilkenny stormed back into this final and actually closed the gap to a single point (1-16 to 3-11) by the 51st minute before Tipperary made a stand and responded to the challenge.
“We never like to do things the easy way,” admitted Eddie Connolly as he considered all the drama.
“We could really have finished off the year in real style if we had just kept hurling, but we did what we set out to do at the start of the year and that was to win the All-Ireland. People will question this grade and what it is, but you can see that there are lads out there who will hopefully step up to the next higher level again. Some lads won’t, but look that’s the way things are.”
Although Eddie Connolly was obviously irritated by the fact that Tipperary had been out-scored by eleven points in the opening twenty-one minutes of the second half, he was thrilled by the response and the character of his teammates.
“They got a run on us,” Eddie Connolly told the Tipperary Star.
“But you can also see that there is a good heart in the team. We are built on strong foundations.
“Every time a team put a test on us we have come back. It was the same in the Munster final and it was the same in the first round as well. We built up a big lead and we just got over the line in the end. Thankfully, we were resilient enough to hold out.”
With a point between the sides Kilkenny won a penalty which goalkeeper James Logue saved in the 54th minute from Rory Hickey. It was a key moment.
“It could have gotten away from us. If they had got one of those 21-yard frees or that penalty,” Eddie Connolly explained before indicating that he was particularly determined to save Hickey’s shot should it have been directed his way.
“I was (on the line) and there was no way it was going past me anyway. Thankfully Logie (goalkeeper James Logue) got in and made the save,” Connolly said.
For the duration of this All-Ireland-winning campaign James Barry, Ronan Sherlock and Eddie Connolly have represented a key line on this Tipperary team.
“We would always be talking,” Eddie Connolly explained.
“We have a good relationship. We’re all flexible and we’re all comfortable playing with each other; beside each other and behind each other. Just to give lads encouragement is important.
“We had the confidence in the last ten minutes and we knew we were resilient enough from the three previous days. We knew we had it in us to hold on.”