By Noel Dundon
David Power was a one year old toddler when Tipperary’s minor footballers last featured on All-Ireland Final Day. He wasn’t at the game, eventhough his Dad Michael, was Secretary of the Football Board.
But, he was supposed to attend the banquet held by the Tipperary Association in Dublin afterwards, if Tipperary had been successful. They were not and David never got to the banquet. However, he is at pains to point out that he was at the Munster Final alright, even if he remembers nothing from the experience.
It’s all a lot different this time round though. Little did Michael Power think back in 1984 that it would be his one year old son, who would steer Tipperary to their next final 27 years later. Michael is back as Football Board Secretary again these days and he has seen many great days through the years. Victory on Sunday would probably cap it all for the Powers who have given a lifetime to the GAA and specifically, to football in The Premier County.
At 28, David is still a very young Manager but he has been involved with Tipperary since he was “knee high”. Having spent years on the sidelines watching games, attending training and organising things, he made the step up to the big time in October 2008 when Football Board Chairman Noel Morris rang him and asked him to meet him. From then on a voyage of discovery kicked off and the journey has brought David and Tipperary all the way to Croke Park.
“I had been involved in the development squads for a few years and I suppose I knew a lot of the players coming through the system. I had Liam Cronin with me for the first two years because I felt, I was only 26 and I needed some experience on the line. We rolled on from there and Liam was finding it hard to get the time to do the job because he was still playing with his club and was involved heavily there. So, I managed to get John Evans involved and it has worked out very well.
“The Manager and Coach are two very different jobs and you have to be able to spread the workload because there is so much going on. I still retain a big role in the development squads as well because that’s the route I see Tipperary going if we are to be successful,” David told The Tipperary Star when we met at the Horse and Jockey Inn this week.
Tipperary have lost their last two All-Ireland minor football finals to Dublin, but rather than curse Sunday’s opposition again, he prefers to look towards a third time luck scenario instead. Amazingly, despite the huge population draw and their title as a football super power, the Dubs have not won a minor final since that day back in 1984.
David and his selectors Tadgh Duggan, Fergal McDonnell, Pat Murphy and Alan O’Connor (Coach) will be hoping to ensure that the Dubs have at least one more year to wait before they lift the silverware, but he knows that they are very formidable opposition who are capable of running riot, if allowed to do so.
“They are a big physical team and they have a great half back line from where they laucnh their attacks. They showed a lot of bottle in the semi-final against Galway in what was a tough game for them. But they came through and they will be all the better for having had that game. They have some fantastic players throughout the field and we know that we have to be on our toes in every department,” he says.
David is very well aware of the potency of the Dublin forwards and he has deployed counter attacking measures to try and keep them at bay. These measures have worked throughout the season and the management team is well aware that they will have to work overtime on Sunday if they are to emerge victorious.
The defensive formation is very well settled with John Meagher a rock solid full back behind Dylan Fitzell at centre back. The half flanks, Colin O’Riordan and Seamus Kennedy are an adventurour pair but they can mix their skill going forward with bucket loads of defensive acumen to give the necessary cover to their corner supports in the form of Niall O’Sullivan and Conor O’Sullivan.Of course Stephen O’Brien and Ian Fahey at midfield also give plenty of defensive cover and are fairly impressive when on the forward march too.
A feature of Tipperary’s play this year has been the huge amount of work undertaken throughout the season by the players when not in possession. Defending begins at number 15 and carries right through the side to ensure that when Tipperary don’t have possession, they are doing everything in their power to get the ball back. After all, you can only play football and express yourself if you have the football.
“Yeah, we have very consistent performers all over the field and I suppose a very good defence always sets you up nicely. The players really try to work for each other and that has been seen on many occasions throughout the season, but especially when our backs have been to the wall. People have been complimenting the management for the way the team play, but at the end of the day you can only prepare them for the field. When they cross the line it is up to them to perform and it’s a real credit to the players that they have done so,” David says.
Few minor football teams have played as many games as Tipperary have this season. They have played five Kerry senior football teams alone - John Evans connections coming in very handy there - the most recent being against the Dingle seniors in Mallow. These games have proven invaluable to Tipperary with the varying styles of play ensuring that the players get to tackle a multi-facetted approach to the game of football. Indeed, the fact that they have been playing senior sides also helps them to deal with the physical side of the game and has tutored them on how to deal with the heavy hits, and how to find alternative routes to goal, or from defence, when necessary.
Of course playing so many games has also allowed the side to become very familiar with each other and David sees a huge change in their play since the first outing against Limerick way back at the start of the championship. The team has evolved and matured since then and what we see now taking to the field in the blue and gold jsersey is a well rounded, confident and successful Tipperary side, which can mix it with the best of them.
“Yeah we have come on a lot alright and I suppose that’s what a bit of success does as well. It helps you in terms of confidence and the more you play together, the more familiar you become with each other. We are fortunate to have a clean bill of health going into the match as well and that’s very important because we know that this game won’t be won with just fifteen players. We have always said that the squad we have assembled is very strong and you need to have players to call on at any stage in a match. They are all ready and mad for a chance to show what they can do on this big stage,” David said.
In fact the stage could hardly be bigger, or more daunting for that matter. WIth Dubin also in the senior final against Kerry, it is quite likely that there will be a large sky blues following in early in Croke Park to cheer on Dessie Farrell’s men. Hill 16 will be a sea of blue and navy and while the Dubs will be overwhelming favourites for the silverware, it is a title that Tipperary have no difficulty in affording them.
“We know there will be a massive crowd from Dublin at the game, but we also know that practically all of Ireland, outside of Dublin, will be cheering for us and getting behind us. The lads are really looking forward to it - they are revelling in it, actually. They played in front of 40,000 people in Fitzgerald Stadium in Killarney for the Munster Final and it just seems that the bigger the occasion, the better they become. We had a lot of nerves before the Meath game - the one game we were expected to win - and I think that came from the fact that had we been beaten there, the Munster Final would have been worthless. We came through that game though and we have been underdogs for all the rest. That won’t be bothering us one little bit,” David said.
There is a real sense of achievement in having gotten to the All-Ireland Final, but the Tipp minors still feel they have unfinished business to undertake. Yes, it is a huge occasion for the Football Board and the big ball followers in the county, but it is a unique chance for the players and management to write themselves into the annals of the historybook. Tipp have suffered defeats at the hands of Dublin in 1984 and 1955, but that won’t be occupying the minds as the bus heads for Headquarters on Sunday.
“The game has moved on a lot since those days,” David says. “It is a huge day for us and for everyone involved in football in the county. It will be an awesome day really but we are treating it as just another game. We have been through this routine before in Croke Park and we’ll be trying to do everything exactly the same as we have done so far this season,” he says.
If the results are exactly the same as they have been this season, Tipperary football will be in for a fantastic few weeks.
The Tipperary Star wishes David, his management team and the players all the best for the big game.
Tiobraid Arainn Abu.