Tipperary captain Conor Sweeney in action against Clare in last year's drawn league game in Ennis
Jeddy Walsh recently caught up with Tipperary senior football captain Conor Sweeney to chat about his team’s preparation for the upcoming National Football League as they begin on Sunday next with a trip to Navan to play Meath in their first game in Division 2 in what the Ballyporeen man describes as “the most competitive the division has been in years.”
Q: Last year was a bit of a mixed bag for Tipperary. A fairly decent league campaign in Division 2 where the team held their own comfortably was followed by a somewhat disappointing championship campaign that ended on June 23 when well-beaten by Mayo in Thurles. Perhaps Liam Kearns’ charges were in need of a good break to recharge the batteries after a couple of heavy-duty years in the league and the championship?
A: Yes, our league campaign was a bit of a mixed bag. We had some disappointing losses and some great wins and in the end we were within a kick of a ball from being promoted to Division 1.
Looking back now it was the best thing that could have happened to us because we just weren’t in a place to be competing at the top level.
However, Division 2 this year is the most competitive the division has been in years so we will have plenty of tough challenges ahead which is great preparation for what is a huge championship year for us.
We were extremely disappointed with our championship campaign last year, we just never got going.
But I don’t think the previous couple of years had any bearing on our performances last year. We just need to take responsibility for our own performances and realise that they were not good enough. The club month last year didn’t help us either, and as a result affected our preparation.
Thankfully we have a chance to rectify that this year, so we will just keep the head down and keep working hard.
Conor Sweeney in action in a All-Ireland qualifier against Galway
You have picked up League winners medals in Division 4 and Division 3 at Croke Park over the past few years with final wins over Clare and Louth, but Division 2 seems to be a much tougher stage.
While last year’s campaign was challenging, it seems, on paper at least, that it will be even more testing this year with the relegation of Donegal and Kildare from the top flight, Cork, Meath and Clare still there and two strong Ulster teams Armagh and Fermanagh coming up from Division 3?
I think it is a very competitive league campaign this year which is great. There will be no easy game that’s for sure. Having teams like Donegal and Cork coming to Thurles is something to really look forward to so hopefully we will be in a good position to take on all these great teams.
I think there is very little separating all the teams in the division so it will definitely be a tight and tough campaign for sure. We have been lucky this year with the draw in that we only have to travel up north the once to Armagh whom we are very familiar with.
Tipp got off to a perfect start last year with a Saturday night win under lights on January 27 against Cork winning by 3-16 to 1-16. The importance of that early win was huge and it took great pressure off the whole Tipperary set-up. Again as you travel to Navan and a first round game against Meath, as ever it will be vitally important to try and get off to a good start?
It’s very important to try and win your first game and maybe even your first two games and get some points on the board early.
Winning away from home last year in our first game was a fantastic start to our league campaign and we will be looking to do something similar this time around.
However, Meath are going to be a very difficult team to beat. They have been a solid Division 2 team for years now and we have always found it difficult to beat them. This team is well aware of the importance of getting off to winning ways so we will be totally focused on this game and nothing else.
A good start is half the battle and if we were to get off to a good start it may give us momentum going forward.
Sweeney celebrates a goal against Laois in an All-Ireland qualifier
Tipperary’s display against ‘The Royals’ in Thurles last year in which Tipp won by eight points was one of the team’s better ones in the campaign. No doubt Meath will be very anxious to put that right this time round and will perhaps see Tipperary as one of the more likely teams that they can take points from this campaign? What can you remember of them from last year and how will Tipp approach this game?
I just remember the game being tight at half time albeit we had controlled the first half. In the second half then we really drove on and managed the game well and thankfully got a great result at home. It’s very important that we win our home games which would go a long way to consolidating our Division 2 status.
Travelling to Navan will obviously be difficult and it wouldn’t be a venue that we would be too familiar with. I have never played there myself so it will be a new environment for me and a lot of the other players I would think.
We will have to approach the game with a strong attitude and come out of the blocks immediately and take the game to Meath. If we are slow to start which has been the case in the past then we could be in trouble, so a good start is essential.
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