For the second year in a row Kerry man John Evans has been handed the daunting task of preparing a Tipperary senior football team to take on the might of his home county.
At least last year Tipperary had the comfort of a home draw, a Semple Stadium contest that was lost by twelve points, but on this occasion they travel to Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney this Sunday (3.30) for a quarter final clash.
Like last year Tipperary will be motivated to compete with Kerry for as long as they can but realistically it looks like the qualifiers will be the only option left to this team late Sunday afternoon.
Tipperary take on Kerry having narrowly avoided relegation down to Division Four of the National Football League which came as a huge relief to every Tipperary football supporter.
Now in his fourth season, Evans has taken the senior footballers of the county on a tremendous journey competing at the lofty heights of division two of league.
A return to the basement according to the Kerryman was not an option and with Division Three football secured for next season that takes some of the pressure of this team.
They go into the Kerry game realising that they can compete with Kerry and did so very admirably for fifty minutes in Semple Stadium last year with Philip Austin’s early goal giving them the perfect start.
A similar opening salvo would be a massive boost to Tipperary on Sunday as they take on the Kingdom hoping to hit peak form to challenge the Kerrymen.
John Evans has had to prepare for this encounter with Kerry not knowing if key players such as Seamus Grogan and Peter Acheson would be available on the day.
Grogan is doubtful because of a back injury that is ‘hard to quantify’ according to the manager while Acheson picked up a hamstring injury against Clkonmel Commercials with his club Moyle Rovers.
The Tipp manager said that when the draw was made earlier in the year the players were disappointed to get Kerry for the second year running.
“No matter what way you look at it it is an extremely difficult draw and to get Kerry two years in a row is not what you want. But that is what we have to do, we have to embrace it and take it on. We are going to be looking at our performance and what we can get out of it,” said the manager.
Evans felt that last year they were given some assistance with the home draw but going down to Killarney made the task that much more difficult.
He was pleased with the performance of his team last year and is hoping to stay with Kerry for as long as possible this time around.
“We were competitive with them last year for a long time. There was very little in it after fifty seven minutes and they put in a storming finish by scoring a few goals and that was it,”
He is hoping that the experience of playing Kerry will stand to his players this year and he praised them for their huge commitment and dedication this year.
“Since the draw was made the lads have put in an incredible effort to prepare for this game. They have given everything and they know how much harder they had to work and they know what is expected of them on Sunday,” he said.
The Tipp manager believes that the team Tipperary are facing on Sunday will win the All-Ireland title next September and that his team will be rally up against it on Sunday.
“From our point of view the performance is everything. This will be another step for us towards team building and having to take Kerry on in the opening round of the championship two years in a row will lmake our lads a formidable outfit,” he insisted.
He said Kerry are an in-form team, having won five out of seven of their league clashes losing the other two against Cork and Dublin by the narrowest of margins.
“Make no mistake about it they set a very high standard and are favourites for the All-Ireland in my opinion,” he said. ”We know we have to perform even better than we did last year because on this occasion we have to take them on down in Killarney,” he said.
“You can be sure that it is going to be all hands on deck on Sunday and hopefully we can manage to stay in the game for as long as possible. We have very good lads ourselves, hugely committed and have given everything to the cause this year. I am sure they will do their level best and that is all we can ask of them on the day,” said the Tipp manager.