Liam Kearns backs the Tipperary players to “fight to the very end” at Breffni Park

Brian McDonnell

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Brian McDonnell

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bmcdonnell@tipperarystar.ie

Liam Kearns backs the Tipperary players to “fight to the very end” at Breffni Park

Centre-back Robbie Kiely is a key player on the Tipperary team.

The Tipperary footballers are gearing up this week to face Cavan in round 2B of the All-Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifiers on Saturday, July 8th in Kingspan Breffni Park, Cavan at 2pm. And, although Tipperary are severely hamstrung by a series of injuries manager Liam Kearns expects his team to “fight to the very end”.

“I keep saying it - we just have too many injuries and we have not been able to get a run at it. We have not been able to get our players fit and we have not been right all year. And, I include the league in that - that’s the way it has gone for us this year. But, at the same time, we won the league, we took on Cork in their own back yard and we will give Cavan plenty of it in their own back yard as well,” Liam Kearns told the Tipperary Star this week.

“My players always do their best for Tipperary football and they will do their best for Tipperary football again - no one can ask any more of them. In the circumstances they have given it their all. They are a resilient group - we fight to the very end. We went out without All Stars all over the place and we still very nearly beat Cork. We should have beaten Cork - we are very disappointed with the goal that we conceded straight after our own goal,” Liam Kearns explained.

“My fellas will fight on their backs. It does not matter what the circumstances are. We are playing a division one team in their own back yard, but we will go up there to try and win the match. We are down a lot of quality players - if it was Kerry or Mayo or Tyrone they would all miss the type of players that we are missing, but my fellas will still go up there and give a great account of themselves - there is no doubt about that.”

Due to a plaque of injuries the Tipperary patterns are starting to look a little threadbare. Although Evan Comerford has been ruled out through suspension injury has ruled out players like Ciarán McDonald, Shane O’Connell and Willie Connors while Michael Quinlivan, Liam Casey, Bill Maher and Liam Boland are working hard to rehab their respective complaints.

In more positive news Jack Kennedy and Emmet Moloney are options for Liam Kearns while Ian and Kevin Fahey are both back training. But, irrespective of such encouraging developments, Liam Kearns will simply not be picking from a full hand against Cavan on Saturday.

CAVAN PEDIGREE

Although Cavan have not won an Ulster senior title since 1997 they have collected under-21 provincial crowns in 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014. Cavan have gleamed some quality players from that crop and competed in division one of the Allianz National Football League this season - in the end Cavan were relegated having lost to Dublin (0-11 to 0-18), Tyrone (1-9 to 0-19), Donegal (0-11 to 1-16) and Roscommon (1-10 to 1-13). Cavan drew with Monaghan (0-7 apiece) and Kerry (1-10 to 0-13) while they beat Mayo (1-14 to 0-15) in Castlebar.

Cavan lost to Monaghan (0-15 to 1-15) in a recent Ulster championship quarter-final and almost forced a replay, but Ryan Connolly's shot smacked off an upright in injury time. Following that encounter Cavan beat Offaly (1-17 to 0-16) in the qualifiers thanks to an inspirational performance from Gearóid McKiernan.

Former Tyrone football Mattie McGleenan was appointed as Cavan manager in October 2016 (succeeded Terry Hyland). The Eglish man played in the 1995 All-Ireland final against Dublin, won Ulster titles in 1995 and 1996 and is the head of physical education in St Patrick’s, Armagh (a school he led to the MacRory Cup in 2000 - a first title in forty-seven years). McGleenan guided Monaghan Harps from the junior to senior club ranks before leading Scotstown to a first senior title in sixteen years (2013).

“Cavan are a good team - they were beaten by Monaghan and they could have beaten Monaghan. Monaghan are rated very highly; they are in the top four or five teams in the country. Cavan are playing in division one all year; they got relegated after the final game - if they had beaten Roscommon they would have survived in division one,” Liam Kearns told the Tipperary Star.

“Cavan are a good team and they are a good young team - they have been winning a lot of Ulster under-21 titles and they have some exceptional players. Gearóid McKiernan is exceptional in the middle of the field and Martin Reilly at wing-forward is also very good.

“Cavan are a good team and they are in their own back yard. I think we are two-to-one outsiders again, but that’s the same as it always is for us. We are always underdogs anyway. I suppose in the circumstances that prevail, the fact that we are missing so many players and have so many injuries, it is probably right that they should be the favourites,” the Kerry man admitted.

Tipperary senior football manager Liam Kearns.

KINGSPAN BREFFNI PARK

Although Tipperary will make the journey to Kingspan Breffni Park as distinct underdogs supporters of the blue and gold will comfort themselves with memories of last year’s 1-21 to 2-17 round four All-Ireland Senior Football Championship qualifier win over Derry at the same venue.

Tipperary trailed 1-4 to 2-7 at the interval, but Liam Kearns’ men fought back to take a five-point lead before getting hit with 1-3 in six minutes. Tipperary, however, refused to give in and late strikes from Kevin O’Halloran and Conor Sweeney propelled the Premier County to one of their most famous wins.

“We like the pitch and it is a fine pitch, but that is balanced out by the fact that it is Cavan’s own back yard. Cavan will be delighted to be playing there I am sure. Certainly, we have fond memories of the pitch from last year when we gave a great display against Derry. We don’t have a problem with the pitch - it is a fine venue. Obviously, we would prefer to be at home, but we simply did not get the draw. That’s the way the year has gone - we have had tussles the whole way and nothing has changed for us, but as I said the bigger the challenge the better the Tipperary players will respond to it. And, I hope they will do the same again next Saturday,” Liam Kearns said.

QUALIFIER STRUCTURE

The football qualifiers are divided into sections A and B - teams are designated A or B depending on which half of their provincial championships they compete in. In all rounds of the qualifiers A teams play A teams and B teams play B teams. Tipperary have been designated a section B team - the draw for round 2B is: Wexford v Monaghan, Westmeath v Armagh, Carlow v Leitrim and Cavan v Tipperary.

Eight games (four in round 2A and four in round 2B) take place in round two with the eight winners of these contests playing one another in round three. The four winners then face the respective four beaten provincial finalists in round four with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs.