Páraic Duffy pictured addressing delegates at the Sarsfields Centre, Thurles in November. Photo: Jerry Ring
Tipperary senior football manager Liam Kearns has declared that his management team, the Tipperary panel of players and the Tipperary Football Board are opposed to the potential introduction of Páraic Duffy's proposal to revamp the All-Ireland championship - the motion to introduce a round robin series to the championship is expected to go before GAA National Congress this weekend.
“Speaking on behalf of the Tipperary senior football management team, the Football Board and our players I would like to say that we are against the round robin proposals. We don't believe that it is going to benefit us or the likes of counties like us. It would put massive pressure on our resources. That's the reality of it and it would give the weaker counties no chance,” Liam Kearns told the Tipperary Star regarding the proposed revamp which originated with the Cumann Lúthchleas Gael's Árd Stuirthóir Páraic Duffy.
“I believe that it is going to favour the strong counties and I believe that only the panels with the greatest depth will be able to cope with the amount of games that are involved. It is totally and completely, in my opinion, biased towards the top teams in the country,” Liam Kearns explained before revealing that he has made his feelings on the matter known to Tipperary County Board secretary Tim Floyd.
Under the terms of the Páraic Duffy proposal the last eight teams in the All-Ireland football championship (four provincial champions and four qualifier winners) would be split into two groups of four and play off against each other - the proposed system would involve an additional eight extra games.
The February meeting of the Tipperary County Board takes place in the Thurles Sarsfields Centre on Tuesday, February 21st - it is expected that delegates will vote at that meeting on whether to back or oppose Páraic Duffy's motion to congress.
“We are very opposed to Páraic Duffy's proposals. We are against it and what the County Board do then after that will be interesting to see. My management team and the senior football team are against the proposals,” Liam Kearns insisted.
“It's very simple. If you lose a championship match and go into the qualifiers you are going to have to play four or five games in about six or seven weeks and then when you get to the quarter-finals you will then have to play three of the strongest teams for three weeks in-a-row.
“It makes it an absolute impossibility (for a team like Tipperary to achieve what the Premier County did in 2016 when reaching an All-Ireland semi-final). It favours the teams with the most depth - Dublin, Kerry, Mayo, Tyrone and all the teams that are up there at that level. It does not favour or it does not give any chance to the teams below that,” Liam Kearns said.
“You saw what we did last year: we got to an All-Ireland semi-final playing the same fifteen players over the course of the competition. That is unheard of and it would be very difficult to repeat again. Any injuries to any of our key players would have put our challenge off the rails. The bottom line to me is that it's about money and it's about elitism. It's about getting the eight strongest panels playing each other in Croke Park. It really does make it an impossible task for the teams below the top seven or eight teams in the country.”
Essentially, Liam Kearns has argued that had Páraic Duffy's proposals been inaugurated prior to the 2016 All-lreland Senior Football Championship Tipperary's thrilling charge to last August's semi-final against Mayo would not have happened.
“I don't believe that it would,” Liam Kearns said.
“It's well-documented that we used the same fifteen players from the Kerry match in the Munster final. We used the same fifteen in all the championship matches after that and if we had to go and play Mayo, having played Galway and beaten them, and then go and play Tyrone one week after the other we just would not have been able to cope. That's the bottom line.”
Tipperary senior football manager Liam Kearns.
ALLIANZ FOOTBALL LEAGUE
The Tipperary senior football team face into a tough trip to O'Moore Park, Portlaoise on Saturday, February 25th (throw-in 7pm) when Liam Kearns' men face Laois in a key game. Tipperary lost out to Sligo (1-16 to 2-14) in the last round following a poor display and this week manager Kearns has admitted that his side are under pressure to perform.
“That's what we would be looking for more than anything else - that we perform better than we have in the last two matches and that we let the result look after itself. That's what we are looking for and that's the message that we have sent to the players. We are looking for a performance against Laois. What happens after that we will live with,” Liam Kearns said.
“There is no point in talking about promotion at this stage - every team is beating each other and there is only one team unbeaten after the first two rounds. The results are very unpredictable and it is basically because some teams are in good shape at this time of the year, some teams are behind and other teams are way behind. It all depends on what kind of state that you are in.”
On the injury front Bill Maher, Colm O'Shaughnessy, Ian Fahey, Shane O'Connell, Conor Kenny, Ciarán McDonald, Diarmuid Foley, Jason Lonergan are unavailable this weekend for a variety of reasons, but in more positive news George Hannigan, one of the key leaders of the group, is expected to make the substitutes bench for the contest with Laois.
In the last round Tipperary permitted a Sligo team to build a big lead before almost reeling them in thanks to a determined second half fight back. In the end Tipperary lost by just a point having scored 1-6 without reply late in the game, but manager Liam Kearns was not fooled. Tipperary were poor and need to improve.
“We have worked hard and to be perfectly honest we would be very disappointed with our performance against Sligo for sixty minutes of the game,” Liam Kearns said.
“We were not fooled by the last ten minutes and by the fact that we nearly won the game or nearly got out of there with a draw. Our performance was just not good enough. We have had a long, hard look at ourselves and we have been working very hard on the training ground to address the issues that came up in that game. We are hoping for a reaction next Saturday,” Liam Kearns added.
“Our fitness levels are not there yet. We knew that Sligo had been training since the middle of November, had all of their players out on the field and were at their best. We are not at our best and we are aware of that. We are a long way from our best based on what we did against Sligo and against Antrim. We have a lot of ground to make up. It's a case of trying to make it up and that's the bottom line for us. We have lost a home game now and if you don't beat Laois then you are down four points and it will be very difficult then to be involved in the promotion race from there. So, it is a big game on Saturday in fairness.”
That said Saturday night's game under lights does represent an opportunity for Tipperary to show the footballing world what the team is capable of.
“It's an opportunity to show that we are better than we were against Sligo and that's how we are looking at the game,” Liam Kearns agreed.
“We were not happy with what we did against Sligo from start to finish. Alright in the last ten minutes we scored 1-6 and almost pulled it back, but that just masks a poor performance by us.”
Laois senior football manager Peter Creedon.
There will, of course, be added spice to the contest in Portlaoise on Saturday. Laois are managed by former Tipperary boss Peter Creedon who is joined on his management team by former Premier County selector Tommy Toomey and coach Michael McGeehin (Donegal). Creedon stood down as Tipp manager in the summer of 2015, citing work commitments as a school principal at Coláiste Dún Iascaigh in Cahir, but has been tempted back into management by the Laois job.
“Laois had a great win in Armagh and, obviously, you would to acknowledge that the Laois management have an awful lot of knowledge about our players because they worked with them for many years,” Liam Kearns said.
“Laois are at home and you would have to say that Laois are the favourites, if you check with the bookies, to win promotion. So, on that basis you would have to say that Laois will be fancied to win that game. We are looking for a performance and we will take whatever happens after that.”
In their opening game Laois lost to Louth (0-10 to 2-16) at O'Moore Park in Portlaoise. After the game Peter Creedon admitted that his side had been "comprehensively" beaten, but Laois re-grouped impressively to beat Armagh (2-11 to 0-16) in Armagh. Laois trailed that contest by five points (1-6 to 0-14), but hauled themselves back into the contest in spectacular fashion.
You have to stretch your mind back to 2010 to locate the last league contest between Laois and Tipperary - seven years ago Laois won with two points to spare in Portlaoise (1-13 to 1-11). Tipp struggled badly in the opening half of that game and trailed 0-2 to 1-9 at the interval. A Philip Austin goal, however, dragged Tipp back into contention and two Conor Sweeney points tied it up with nine minutes to play before efforts from Brendan Quigley and Donal Miller saved Laois.
Following the Laois game Tipperary will host a double header at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday, March 5th - in division three of the Allianz National Football League Tipp will take on Longford (throw-in 1pm) while in division 1A of the Allianz National Hurling League Clare will pay a visit to the home of the All-Ireland champions (throw-in 3pm).
Congratulations go this week to former Tipperary star Colin O'Riordan who made his Australian Football League senior debut for the Sydney Swans on Sunday. The JK Bracken’s man opted to make the move to Aussie Rules in October 2015 and featured in a two-point defeat suffered by the Swans against North Melbourne at the weekend. Colin O’Riordan is in his second year on an international rookie contract.
SENIOR FOOTBALL PANEL
The Tipperary senior football panel: Philip Austin (Borrisokane), Liam Boland (Moyle Rovers), Luke Boland (Moyle Rovers), Aidan Buckley (St Patrick’s), David Butler (Knockavilla Kickhams), Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers), Liam Casey (Cahir), Paddy Codd (Killenaule), Evan Comerford (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), Willie Connors (Kiladangan), Martin Dunne (Moyle Rovers), Ian Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), Kevin Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), Jimmy Feehan (Killenaule), Diarmuid Foley (Moyle Rovers), Brian Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty), George Hannigan (Shannon Rovers), Joseph Hennessy (Loughmore-Castleiney), Cian Hennessy (Loughmore-Castleiney), Josh Keane (Golden-Kilfeacle), Jack Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials), Conor Kenny (Borris-Ileigh), Ciarán Kenrick (Moyle Rovers), Robbie Kiely (Carbery Rangers, Cork), Jason Lonergan (Clonmel Commercials), Bill Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), Ciarán McDonald (Aherlow), Aidan McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Emmet Moloney (Drom & Inch), Alan Moloney (Rockwell Rovers), Ross Mulcahy (Moyle Rovers), Shane O'Connell (Golden-Kilfeacle), Kevin O'Halloran (Portroe), Colm O’Shaughnessy (Ardfinnan), Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials), Paul Shanahan (Upperchurch-Drombane), Colm Stapleton (Upperchurch-Drombane), Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen) & Liam Treacy (Loughmore-Castleiney).
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
DIVISION THREE FIXTURES
Saturday, February 25th
Laois v Tipperary in Portlaoise 7pm
Sunday, March 5th
Tipperary v Longford in Thurles 1pm
Sunday, March 19th
Offaly v Tipperary in Tullamore 2pm
Sunday, March 26th
Tipperary v Louth in Thurles 3pm
Sunday, April 2nd
Armagh v Tipperary in Armagh 2pm