By Noel Dundon
It’s a sign of the changing face of Tipperary football that two different eras in the squad both point to the youngsters who have broken through, as being the ones to instill confidence in all and sundry.
The success of Tipperary in minor and u-21 in recent times brought glory to the blue and gold jersey, but it also infused those players with a confidence and swagger which stands to them. They don’t do panic; take setbacks in their stride; and have the ability to bring a mental toughness to the play which can only be positive.
So, when veteran Philip Austin and the younger, but as experienced Brian Fox, both point to the ‘young lads’ as being their inspiration, it’s time to check it out and investigate a little further. Those guys don’t have any fear about travelling to Pairc Ui Chaoimh on Saturday evening for a tilt with the Rebels in the Munster semi-final - they don’t tip-toe apologetically into these clashes, they bound in with a determination to be as good as they can be.
“We have serious quality footballers here from the minor teams and u-21’s as well. They are contributing what we might have been lacking over the last few years,” Brian Fox says.
Austin chimes in, “A combination of things are making the difference with lads coming through and good management system and training. A good team is made out of a combination of a lot of small elements rather than one big thing and I think we have a lot of those standing to us at the moment. There is a lot of character in the team from the players at underage coming through. That rubs off on the senior players like myself and when I see that happening and it gives me confidence as well. We have a lot of players now with no fear and strong characters,” he says.
The confidence ensured that Tipp expected to beat Limerick away in the first round. They did and descriobed it as a bit of an anti-climax really. But, they know Saturday night will be different again. Another step up, a bigger challenge and experience.
“We had our gameplan against Limerick and were very confident of beating them. From that point of view it will be a different game against Cork. If we are not focused, Cork will demolish us, but at the same time it is a free game because nobody expects us to beat them. We will put pressure on ourselves to win because you don’t go out with the attitude that you are going to lose. Otherwise why would you train for seven/eight months. If you go through the panel nearly everyone has beaten Cork at some stage from minor, u-21, and senior last year in the McGrath Cup. I know it might not be Munster championship but still you have beaten Cork, you have that experience. This will be a big step up from Limerick and one thing you know is that Cork will test your standard and let you know where you are at,” Foxy says.
Tipp have been playing a fast brand of football this season - the self conducted conditioning programmes are paying off. But, all of that work is necessary on order to compete.
Philip Austin explains, ”At this level you have to be playing a fast brand of football and the strong strength and conditioning brings an extra pace to the team and you can start to replicate that out on the field and in training. When you see it in training you know that it can cross over into the game as well. Winning the game against Limerick was a bit of an anti-climax because we more or less expected to win against Limerick. But, Cork have been the best team in Munster over the last three or four years; they have been in the top four in the country over the last few years. At the end of the day we are going down as massive underdogs and we know we have to go down there with a big job to do. It’s the old cliche, we have to stay in the game as long as we can and the longer we stay there, the better chance we have. All the players are looking forward to,” he says.