Spelling it out: Tipperary football manager David Power spells it out to his players during a break in the recent Munster Senior Football Championship quarter-final win over Clare at Semple Stadium.
DARE TO DREAM. If ever there was a day made for Tipperary to win the Munster Senior Football Championship final, then this coming Sunday, November 22, 2020, against Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, is the day.
And why? Because this month marks the 100th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, when Tipperary footballer Michael Hogan was shot dead in Croke Park by the Black and Tans. It also marks 100 years since Tipperary last won an All-Ireland senior title when defeating Dublin in the final (played in June of 1922). Also on Sunday, Tipperary will wear a once-off green and white jersey commemorating that fateful November day of a century ago. And finally throw into the mix the surprise availability of Australian Rules player Colin O’Riordan for the Premier County for the first time since 2015.
We can ask? Have our stars ever been so aligned as the county dreams of ending a provincial football famine that now stretches back all of 85 years?
But to achieve what has been an impossible dream on no less than eight Munster final days since 1935, Tipp have a huge mountain to climb to overcome a super confident Cork side, who have home advantage, and are bouyed by a sensational win over hot favourites Kerry last Sunday week.
For Tipperary the return of 25-year-old O’Riordan is undoubtedly a huge boost to the team’s prospects as they face The Rebels, the former JK Brackens star regarded as one of the hottest prospects in Gaelic football before he signed for Australian Rules side Sydney Swans in 2015. At just 16 years of age he had won an All-Ireland minor medal in 2011 under David Power and was part of the under 21 team that reached an All-Ireland under 21 final in 2015 before losing by a single point to Tyrone in Parnell Park.
David Power is delighted to have O’Riordan back, hoping that he can bring some magic to Tipperary like Cork’s Australian Rules player Mark Keane did for them with that amazing goal which eliminated Kerry from this year’s championship.
“We are grateful for Sydney Swans for allowing Colin to play on Sunday versus Cork. He has been with the group a number of weeks now, so it is great to have a player of his calibre available for selection,” he stated.
According to the manager, Tipperary will go into this game with no fear of taking on Cork, a team they have crossed swords with on numerous occasions in recent years.
“Everyone in the country was surprised with Cork beating Kerry. Not alone were Kerry favourites for the Munster championship but for some they were favourites to win the AllIreland this year and regarded by most as the only team around capable of matching Dublin. What you saw in that game was a very very hungry Cork team. But Kerry did miss a lot of opportunities that ultimately they paid the price for.
“That said we are playing a group of Cork players that these lads have played against at minor, under 21 and senior, and not only have they played but have beaten. Our players will not fear Cork come Sunday,” said the Kilsheelan/ Kilcash clubman.
But David Power knows well that Cork are definitely on the up again, having been promoted from Division 3 a few weeks ago.
“Ronan McCarthy is in his third year and is managing an improving team. Cork have some very good players like Ian Maguire at midfield, they have Brian Hurley inside full-forward, Killian O’Hanlon, Luke Connolly who came on against Kerry and kicked some fabulous scores. They have a lot of good players, no doubt. But going back to this year’s league match in Thurles in February, we kicked 21 points and they kicked 3-13 and that is one thing we have to cut out. If we can shut them out from getting those goals we have a massive opportunity on Sunday,” he added.
Without mentioning Colin O’Riordan specifically and the obvious contribution he might make under the dropping ball, the Tipp manager identified centre field as one of the key battle areas for Sunday.
“ The midfield area is going to be huge in the destination of this final, and the breaking ball around there. I think Cork, bar two kickouts against Kerry went long and I think they will go long against us. They fancy themselves at midfield but I think our midfielders are more than capable of competing with them there,” he added.
The Tipp boss was quick to point out that to a great extent Kerry were the architects of their own downfall in their extra-time loss to Cork with profligacy in shooting. It is a failing that Tipperary must avoid if they are to lift the cup on Sunday.
GOOD CONVERSION RATE
“I think that when we get the opportunities we have to be more clinical with our finishing. Over the last few games our conversion rate has been strong in converting our chances into scores. And we are going to have to do that against Cork. If you look at Kerry they missed a lot of easy opportunities, David Clifford missed two or three easy frees and Sean O Sé missed a couple of frees also.
“But I thought Cork went very defensive against Kerry, leaving just one up front and trying to catch Kerry on the counter attack. It will be interesting to see what way they will shape up against us. I definitely think they will be a bit more offensive-minded. And I think that if some of our key forwards can hit form I think they are going to put Cork under fierce pressure,” he added.
All that said, the Tipperary manager was quick to point out that there is a huge improvement needed in aspects of Tipperary’s play, things that will have to be sorted before they take the field on Sunday next. The kickouts were a problem for a start, the Tipp manager admitted.
“We weren’t winning enough of our kickouts against Limerick, and that is a collective thing and not just a goalkeeper problem - there was a lack of movement all around the field. But Limerick had their homework done on us and in Tommie Childs and Darragh Treacy they had two experienced midfielders.
“ I also thought the two goals we conceded were more individual errors than anything else and obviously we can’t afford to make those mistakes again. Having said that, I did feel that up to the Limerick game we had been very good defensively. We only conceded a goal late on against Clare, which was a lucky enough goal and we hadn’t conceded any against Offaly or Leitrim. It probably had more to do with our shape and set-up in the first half that Limerick got in for those goals,” he added.
Bill Maher who had a fine game against Limerick in the semi-final will be hoping to produce another good performance against Cork in Sunday's final.
The manager was happy enough with the injury situation, with both Steven O’Brien (who missed the Limerick game) and Jack Kennedy. who came off injured in that encounter, expected back to full training.
“Injury-wise we should be okay, it depends on how Steven and Jack react when they are back out on the field but we are fairly confident that we should have the full hand. There were other fellows who came off against Limerick, Emmet Moloney, Kevin Fahey, Conor O’Shaughessy - that was all cramp. The amount of matches was beginning to catch up obviously. We had played four games in 20 days really, ” he said.
Finishing on a positive note he said: “There’s an appetite there. These lads will not fear Cork, definitely not. The one thing that I want above all is that we give a performance on Sunday. If that isn’t good enough we will put up our hands and say it. But we don’t want to be leaving Páirc Uí Chaoimh at 4 o’clock without having given that performance. Hopefully we’ll be leaving having given our best and with the cup in hand also. I know that if we perform on the day we have a great chance of winning,” he concluded.