Tipperary’s U-21 footballers travel to Pairc Ui Rinn this evening with high hopes of preventing a Cork four-in-a-row bid in the competition.
And, the good news from a Tipperary perspective, is that David Power’s men are more than equipped to achieve their goal with the possibility of a second provincial crown coming Tipperary’s way, a very real one.
Yes, it’s a measure of how far Tipperary football has come in recent times that a trip down south doesn’t strike fear into the hearts of those getting on the bus. While perhaps not exactly enjoying the bliss of a superiority complex just yet, there is certainly a determination amongst the football fraternity that any player donning the blue and gold jersey, should be confident, capable and not feel as though they are inferior in any way.
A quick look at the history books would suggest that Tipperary are not going to be at the races this evening. Cork are looking for their twenty third title - an achievement which would bring them level in the role on honour with neighbours Kerry. Tipperary, on the other hand, have a solitary title to their name. But, added to success in the minor grade over the last few seasons and now promotion in the Allianz National Football League for the seniors - many of whom are lining out tonight in Cork in the U-21 grade - suggests a county going places; a county moving in the right direction.
While these thoughts will unlikely occupy the minds of the players in the dressingroom in Pairc Ui Rinn this evening - after all, they are just out to win the provincial crown - the bigger picture is very much a positive one for Tipp, and a win tonight would cement the view that Tipperary are a force to be reckoned with in the ball ball game.
Comprehensive victories over Waterford and Clare - both away fixtures - roadmapped Tipperary’s journey to the final against a Cork side which accounted for Kerry and Limerick. Of course, Cork beat Tipp in last years decider in Semple Stadium by 1-17 to 0-9 and while it was a result which didn’t shock the sportsworld, it didn’t sit easily with Tipperary people - more was expected from the side but they failed to get to the pitch of the ball and were forced to watch The Rebels enjoying the expanses of Semple Stadium instead.
In saying that though, it was a young Tipp side, whereas tonights squad have tasted great success at minor level winning the Munster and All-Ireland crowns back in 2011. Yeah, those were great days with the Munster Final coming at the expense of the Cork lads who were walloped by 3-11 to 1-9 in Killarney. Cork will be more wary this evening - a great way to have them- and Tipp will be more confident - again, a great way to be.
Manager David Power has a number of injury worries and has had to plan without Ross Mulcahy, Philip Quirke, captain John Meagher and Jason Lonergan. But, despite these losses, he is confident and is a happy man going into the final.
“I am very happy with the way things have worked out so far for us in terms of how we are playing and our approach to training. But, tonight will be a different proposition entirely. We are playing Cork in Pairc Ui Rinn and we all know the kind of challenge that brings. Our lads don’t fear Cork at all though and we feel that if we can get into the game and find our stride, we are in with a great chance,”David told The Tipperary Star.
While the success at minor level over the last few seasons has been well documented, and indeed feted, David claims that progression to U-21 and success in that grade would be very significant.
“I think this would be a major step forward for us as a county and it would represent a very significant step on the road for Tipperary. We have worked very hard over the last few seasons to ensure that our players are as good as they can be and to win an U-21 title on the back of our minor success would confirm that we are doing things right. That makes this a big game for Tipp, but as a team we are treating it the same as any other game. We are going to Pairc Ui Rinn to win the Munster title and I feel we can do it,” David said.
That’s fighting talk - the kind supporters love to hear. And, given Tipperary’s progress under Power and his management team, the confidence is well placed. Let’s hope they score a significant victory on Leeside tonight.
The team is: Gearoid Slattery (Cashel King Cormacs); Niall O’Sullivan (Moycarkey Borris), James Feehan (Killenaule), Conor O’Sullivan (Galtee Rovers); Adrian McGuire (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), Seamus Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials), Bill Maher (Kilsheelan Kilcash); Steven O’Brien (Ballina), Colin O’Riordan (JK Brackens); John McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney), Ian Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), Greg Henry (Killenaule); Liam McGrath (Loughmore Castleiney), Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials – Vice-Captain), Sean Flynn (Fr Sheehys)