On Sunday last, Tipperary captain Conor Sweeney laid a wreath on Hill 16 to commemorate Tipperary’s association in the events of Bloody Sunday 1920.
As a blanket of fog descended on Croke Park on Sunday last, it too brought the curtain down on a special year for Tipperary footballers. As visibility faded slowly in the vast, empty stadium so too did the dreams of our footballers of reaching the senior All-Ireland final for the first time in 100 years, and a repeat with Dublin of that final of a century ago.
No doubt, this week, the players will be the ones most disappointed with Sunday’s game, not so much with the result itself but rather with the performance on the day. That is the high standard that this group of players set themselves each time they pull on the county jersey believing one must always try to produce their best.
Against Mayo this time, Tipperary didn’t achieve those heights, and too many basic errors cost them dearly. Tipp never rose their game to the proven high standard that they are capable of, as demonstrated just a few weeks back in capturing their first Munster title in 85 years.
Even in defeat this group of players can hold their heads high for their outstanding achievements this year, both on and off the field of play where they have been exemplary ambassadors for Gaelic games.
Long after the disappointment of Sunday fades, the accomplishment of the triumph over Cork will be recalled for generations to come. Of how they wore the special white and green jersey to victory on a never-to-be-forgotten day in Páirc Uí Chaoimh on the exact weekend of the centenary of Bloody Sunday a hundred years previously.
To the bitter end against Mayo, even when the result was beyond all doubt, David Power’s team never gave up the ghost and took the game to their rivals right up to the final whistle. To win well is easy, to lose well takes that something extra. In defeat the Tipp heroes didn’t have to look very far for a better example than Mayo, a county with an undying belief that the next day, the next year, will be theirs. And hopefully it will be someday soon.
After the final whistle on Sunday, the Tipperary squad dusted themselves down, regrouped, composed themselves and with stoic pride marched respectfully to the steps of Hill 16. Poignantly team captain Conor Sweeney ascended those famous steps, representing all the people of Tipperary, living and dead, to lay a wreath in memory of Michael Hogan of Grangemockler who lost his life playing for his county on November 21, 1920.
This time, in Croke Park, we only lost a game. No more.