By Noel Dundon
Tipperary’s senior footballers will get Sunday’s proceedings underway when they entertain Kerry for the third year in a row in the champoionship first round.
Yes, Semple Stadium will be the venue for a game which carries little optimism from a Premier County perspective especially since the Allianz National Football League campaign proved so disasterous with relegation being their lot.
But, following the departure of Manager John Evans, a new management team has been put in place led by Peter Creedon and they have been working out a number of strategies in a bid to ready Tipp for the Kingdom. It hasn’t been easy and time has been quite tight for them, but as selector Gerry McGill explains, the squad members have shown great enthusiasm and a willingness to listen and learn.
“Peter would have said to me that the lads are doing a lot of things right and it has been hard luck on them in the National League and again last year. Sometimes things happen like that and they go a bit stale. That seems to be what happened and while I don’t have a whole lot of knowledge of what it was like before that, I know that a lot of what they were doing was right. I suppose we have had a number of additions to the squad and a few lads have gone off. But, they are great lads; are great to train; are very enthusiastic and willing to learn. There is no negativity as such and I think they just need a bit of a lift. To be fair the response we have gotten has been excellent.
“The timescale has been tight and we are just trying to get organised now for the big game. It is about trying to get the balance right and with the players we have trying to get the right mix with certain elements of our game. They key thing to having a Natioanl League behind you is that you get to try out certain things with the players and you have a more indepth knowledge of them. We are still finding out about players and trying to work out strategies. We are faced with the Kerry game now and trying to figure what the best strategy is and where best to utilise your players. Time is too short for us to try and settle things and that is the most unsettling thing for us,” Gerry told The Tipperary Star this week.
Admitting that he was surprised to get the call from Peter Creedon to be part of the management team, the Principal of Scoil Ruain Seoncdary School in Killenaule, was thrilled to get back into the game having coached the Dublin ladies football team for four seasons. He joined with two other Secondary school Principals on the management team with Peter in St Ailbhe’s Vocational School in Tipperary Town and Mick O’Loughlin, Principal in the Presentation Secondary School in Clonmel. Also involved are Alan O’Connor and Tommy Twomey - the only remaining link with the Evans era.
Tipp have had to prepare without the very influential pair Barry Grogan and Brian Jones, both of whom have unfortunately emigrated. Grogan was Tipp’s main target man for a number of seasons while Jones was building quite a reputation as a fine midfielder. Tipperary’s loss is Bostons gain unfortunately.
“A lot of counties are going through that at the minute. But the one thing we have is that the squad of players all want to be involved. The players made their decision to go off and that’s grand, but we have to use the players we have now and adapt accordingly. We have some class players and they are great lads. It is not easy losing strong players but at the end of the day you just have to put the head down and work with who you have,” Gerry says.
So, Kerry for a third year in a row - anyone would claim it to be extreme bad luck, but Gerry can see a positive in it. It represents a chance for the Tipp players to pit themselves against the best; to measure up against the standard bearers; and to see where the real deficiencies lie. Nobody expects Tipp to beat Kerry, but the hope is that the Premier lads can learn a thing or two about themselves prior to attacking the qualifiers.
“I was chatting to Barry Cahill ( Dublin footballer) and he said that the one game he would look forward to all year, if he could get it, would be Kerry. Young fellas should be thriving and looking forward to marking the likes of Gooch and Donaghy and these fellas. You measure yourself against the best. The structure is the way it is and when you play in the Munster championship, the fact is you will hit Kerry or Cork at some stage. I wouldn’t have any qualms about it but we are under no illusions about it -we are playing the best team in the country. We just have to adapt and get over it. There is a young culture coming through now in Tipperary with the minors and what they have achieved and the U-21’s as well. Some of these lads know what it is like to beat Kerry and that is something that we have to aspire to do at senior level as well. It is not as simple as that, but it is as it is,” Gerry says.
Yes, it’s a no nonsense approach from the management - if that carries onto the field of play, who knows where the season will take Tipperary. While there is unlikely to be a pot of silverware at the end, progression would be welcome to encourage the successful underagers to continue on through the ranks. Rome wasn’t built in a day, you know.