If Tipperary senior footballers were in so-called ‘Bonus Territory’ following their defeat of Derry at Breffni Park to reach the last eight of the championship for the first time ever; the footballing world will now see Tipperary as being in ‘Dreamland’ following last Sunday's demolition of Galway at Croke Park.
The victory over the Connacht champions may not have been a total surprise to everyone - manager Liam Kearns afterwards said that Tipp travelled “with confidence” - but the magnitude of the margin, the ease at which Tipp controlled matters for long stretches of the game, and above all the brand of football that Tipperary produced on the day made the footballing world take note that the Premier County has finally arrived as a serious senior outfit.
This magnificent day, welcome as it is, was in the minds of many, long overdue. Someone was going to bear the brunt of it at some point along the way and Galway ran straight into that Tipperary juggernaut on Sunday last.
Tipp after some serious team building and development over the last couple of years, stretching back to the breakthrough Munster under 21 success under John Evans against Kerry in 2010, were due their big break in the sun. Continued progress was made with an Minor All-Ireland minor win in 2011 under David Power, and a few Munster under 21 final appearances before last year’s gallant run for Tommy Toomey’s side ending in a narrow defeat to Tyrone in the All-Ireland final. Not forgetting the Division 4 final win against Clare two years ago, also in Croke Park, under the management of Peter Creedon where many of Sunday’s side gained valuable experience of playing senior at GAA headquarters.
Tipp are now finally an overnight success after many hard years of great dedication and determination by many.
Sunday’s success had all the football journalists in the Hogan Stand tongue-tied and tripping over themselves to sing our praises. Enough adjectives couldn’t be found to describe the performance adequately - brilliant, freewheeling, majestic. Others were in awe of the flair, the fearlessness, the masterclass, the dominance. Even Joe Brolly and Colm O’Rourke, who many thought giggled disrespectfully like schoolboys live on TV at our prospects at half-time in the the Munster final changed their tune. On Sunday Brolly was singing his praises of Tipperary’s panache, quality, composure and brilliance. These seasoned football experts didn’t see this coming.
And even if at year’s end we have neither promotion (remember Tipp failed to win five of their seven games in Division 3 of this year's National League) or silverware to show for our efforts, the year will go down in history. This team has achieved above and beyond any expectations. Who would have thought this was possible on a miserable day last January at Kilmallock, when team manager Liam Kearns took charge for the first time. Tipp were lucky to escape with a draw that day against a team who were subsequently relegated to Division 4. No one in their wildest dreams could have imagined that by the month of August Tipp would be in an All-Ireland semi-final for their first time since 1935.
The improvement has been outstanding; if it was horseracing the trainer would be up before the stewards to explain himself. But this story is all good. Not alone is it deserving for Tipperary and the small and loyal band who have soldiered for years in developing the big-ball game in the county; but on a national level this team are being lauded for adding a welcome breath of fresh air to football which many are seeing as developing into everything and anything except how it should be played.
For those who were there on Sunday it will go down amongst the great days - the 1987 Killarney “Famine is over day”; Bobby Ryan lifting the Liam McCarthy in 1989 when the famine was really over; Lar’s three goals in the 2010 All-Ireland final to stop the Kilkenny drive for five; and the 2011 All-Ireland minor football final when Tipp ended a 77 year gap since their only previous win in 1934.
So now, with Tyrone or Mayo, next up on Sunday, 21st August for a place in - dare we say it - an All-Ireland senior football final, we hand over to the hurlers on Sunday week when Galway once again provide the opposition. Yes, we can now bask in the dream of an All-Ireland double for a few days at least. And why not? We are in with a shout of both. We are in Dreamland!
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