CHARLIE McGeever’s Tipperary minor footballers stand on the cusp of history as they prepare for next Sunday’s Electric Ireland Munster football championship final against Kerry in Killarney (12.0).
If McGeever’s young guns can slay the Kingdom in their Fitzgerald Stadium lair, it will the first time in history that Tipp have won three successive Munster minor football crowns.
Tipp have done two-in-a-row twice before, in 1934/35 and 2011/12, but recording a treble would represent new territory for Premier County football.
It’s Tipp’s fifth provincial decider in six seasons in the minor grade and the second year in a row that Kerry have provided the final opposition.
Last July at the Gaelic Grounds, Tipp scored a 2-14 to 1-14 victory and a core group of survivors from that landmark victory in Limerick city will strive to ensure that history repeats itself.
Jimmy Feehan, Ross Mulcahy, Kevin Fahey, captain Colin O’Riordan and Tom Kirwan occupy key positions on the team.
Feehan is at full-back with Mulcahy (centre) and Fahey occupying two-thirds of the half-back division.
O’Riordan, scorer of four points for the minor hurlers against Limerick last week, is an inspirational leader at the middle of the field and Kirwan provides a real attacking fulcrum at full-forward.
But those five players bring much more than just footballing ability to the table, McGeever explained.
What they also possess is mental strength and no fear when it comes to playing the likes of Cork and Kerry.
don’t know what it’s like to lose
McGeever said: “Those lads don’t know what it’s like to lose to Cork and Kerry. In the Cork match (Munster semi-final) they had no fear of going in to mark whoever they were marking. They’re dual players, bar Kevin, and have been there for a couple of years in both codes, claiming a lot of success with provincial and All-Ireland medals in their pockets.”
McGeever revealed that Michael Meagher is unfortunately ruled out with a hamstring injury but the Grangemockler/Ballyneale forward will be fit for an All-Ireland quarter-final appearance.
DUAL PLAYERS ARE BACK
And the manager is happy to welcome back the dual players who featured against Limerick in last week’s Munster minor hurling semi-final.
Mulcahy, Willie Connors, Kirwan, O’Riordan, Josh Keane, Tommy Nolan and Paul Maher are “central to our plans”, McGeever confirmed.
He added: “We were always going to have the situation with a changeover from hurling to football. It’s difficult to come back given the disappointment of last Wednesday but we had one final serious match in between the hurling and our own championship match.
“We played Laois before the Cork game and that worked out great and we played Meath last Friday night. Meath had a lot of last year’s squad that reached an All-Ireland final and they were very physical and very strong but we did well.
“What was quite clear was the cobwebs on our dual players and while other teams preparing for provincial finals are down to fine-tuning, we’ll be working very hard over the next week to get as much ball as we can into those seven.”
McGeever took his squad to Killarney last Sunday for a ‘dry run’ ahead of the weekend.
And he isn’t paying any heed to the statistical significance surrounding the provincial showpiece, should Tipp manage to win the game.
He said: “They’re for the statisticians. These guys are only interested in winning their own Munster title. And the pressure is a little bit less with an All-Ireland quarter final at the back of it. That makes a huge difference because there was a different mindset for the Munster semi-final.
THE PRESSURE IS ON KERRY
“For the first match (against Clare), you know that there’s a back door but Cork was do or die. After that, you’re guaranteed two more matches. I saw some quotes from (Kerry manager) Mickey Ned O’Sullivan and he’s said that it’s not the end of the world if they lose but the pressure is on Kerry because they’re at home, they haven’t won one for a while (2009) and it might be more difficult to motivate Kerry lads against Tipp than against Cork.
“They might still look upon us as what we are – a dual county or not a great threat in some sense.
“But there will be an expectation in our lads that lost last Wednesday that they’re not going to lose two within a fortnight. We had meetings and get-togethers on Sunday and within the group they’re right up for it.
“We just need a lot of things to fall right on the day. We might hit a Kerry team bang on for it and minor games can swing around very quickly compared to senior.”
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