Tipperary centre back Robbie Kiely in action against Cork.
"When I heard Mayo coming out of the draw, I was smiling. Obviously, we had met them before and it was going to be another chance to play against the best," says Robbie Kiely.
Tipperary centre back Robbie Kiely will have reason to remember The Premier County's last rumble with the Mayo senior footballers more than anybody else in the blue and gold clad camp.
The former Arravale Rovers clubman, who is now plying his trade in west Cork, was just settling into the biggest game of his career – the All-Ireland senior football semi-final against Mayo – when he was very harshly black carded. His day was over less than ten minutes in, and with his departure went a big chunk of Tipperary's fortune in that game.
So, when Mayo came out of the bowl to face Tipperary in Saturday's qualifier tie at Semple Stadium, Robbie had to have a little chuckle to himself. Mind you he wasn't chuckling when he turned in for work in Dell EMC in Cork a few days after the Rebels had handed Tipperary a lesson in the provincial semi-final – he works there as a software engineer.
“There was a bit of craic down there alright but it's all good. My boss is a mad football man and there was loads of stuff going on alright before the game. When I heard Mayo coming out of the draw, I was smiling. Obviously, we had met them before and it was going to be another chance to play against the best. The black card against them, it was hard to believe it was actaully happening and the dreams were dashed so quickly. It was all over for me before it had started,” he says.
Robbie is one of those players who gives his all in every outing and he loves to assist the attack as well by driving forward with those lung busting runs of his. He has learned to curb that desire to go forward all the time though and says that maintaining defensive cover in front of the full back line is a priority for him more than any other.
“Our midfielders are well able to go forward and get up and down the field, so I am happy enough to ensure that our full back line is not exposed. If I have the chance and if it's on, I like to get up there, but I have to be conscious of the defensive duties first,” he says.
The Mayo game will be Tipperary's third outing in Semple Stadium this summer and the last one against Cork is one that the Tipp players want to forget. But, it could also be the one they will learn most from and with an experienced Mayo side preparing to load up the bus and face for Thurles, Robbie and colleagues will have to have learned fast.
“We just didn't show up against Cork for whatever reason and we know that Mayo will be coming down to throw off the shackles. I don't think they will fear coming here – they will relish it in fact, but there will be pressure on them too. We don't have pressure on us – the only pressure we have comes from ourselves and from our desire to produce the kind of performances we are capable of. We don't listen to external things really and we try to manage our own expectations and ambitions,” he says.
Perhaps those same ambitions were at the back of the below par performance against Cork – the desire to produce actually stifled the players fluidity and caused them to clamp up, rather than cut loose.
“The Cork game was extremely tough because we were really focused on them from the start. Maybe we were too pumped up or psyched out. Afterwards you could see the disappointment in the dressingroom because we let Tipperary down, we let our families down, and we let ourselves down. We don't want again,” he says.
So, while Tipperary won't exactly be bringing the deck chairs to Semple on Saturday, they will try to be more relaxed and manage the tension in a better manner. By turning it into something positive, that tension could just be a vital ingredient in the Tipperary recipe to down the Mayo men.
It's a tall task and a lot will have to go right. But, this Tipp side is used to claiming big scalps – they don't come much bigger than Mayo at the present time.