All heaven broke loose for Tipperary fans at Croke Park, Dublin on Sunday when Liam Kearns' defiant footballers tore up the script and raced to a nine-point win (3-13 to 1-10) over Connacht champions Galway.
Tipperary's boys of summer strode in real style to the county's first championship win at Croke Park since the 1920 All-Ireland final (which was actually played in 1922) - the Premier will now take on either Mayo or Tyrone in the last four on Sunday, August 21st (the county's first semi-final appearance since 1935).
There have been landmark achievements for Tipperary football in recent years - Munster under-21 titles in 2010 and 2015 and an All-Ireland minor triumph in 2011 - but this trumped the lot.
Tipperary produced a dynamic display with a sensational outside-of-the-boot effort from centre-back Robbie Kiely in the 52nd capturing the essence of Tipperary's stylish performance. Indeed, the Tribesmen were fortunate that Liam Kearns' side were not more clinical in front of goal; Tipp only converted three of seven clear goal-scoring chances and also fired twelve wides.
And, the final whistle was greeted by one of the most emotional scenes ever witnessed at Croke Park when the Tipperary footballers celebrated with their small band of loyal supporters in front of the Hogan Stand. Indeed, team manager Liam Kearns declared his hope that the Tipperary public would turn out in force to support these footballing heroes in the semi-final.
“There’s only a small band (of supporters) there. We could do with a bigger band; Tipperary is a big county and I hope the players will get the support they deserve in the semi-final because they are putting in a massive effort on behalf of the county. They are doing the county proud; they are playing great football and I think they deserve more support,” Liam Kearns said following Tipperary's surprise win over Galway.
“We are delighted to share it today with the ones who are here - they are the loyal supporters; they (the players) know them all by name and I am just delighted they have got a day in the sun.”
“We were confident coming in this game,” Liam Kearns revealed.
“We can say that now. We were confident we would put in a performance. Okay we didn’t expect to win the game in the manner we did, but certainly we knew we were improving all the time.
“We felt Galway were decent, but had things to prove as well. People were saying the tradition of Galway was going to wipe us out in Croke Park, but we didn’t feel that.
“To beat them is a proud moment, but we’re not getting carried away. I don’t think Galway were at their best and whoever we face in the semi-final, whether it’s Tyrone or Mayo, will expect to beat us. But, look, to be talking about ourselves in the same breath as Tyrone, Dublin, Kerry that’s a fair achievement.”
This group of Tipperary footballers are not interested in the past, only the future and manager Liam Kearns was eager to point out that his team are determined to create their own tradition: “Everyone was going on about Galway’s tradition, but I was telling our players we were going to make our own tradition.
“Nobody gave us any credit for beating Cork. It was all about Cork and how could Cork lose and they have so much talent and so much behind them and they are winning All-Ireland under-21s and to lose to Tipperary is a disgrace. We got no credit at all for that win. We got a bit more for the Derry game, but, again, we were boxed off as part of the romance, ourselves and Clare.
“I told the lads that the script was written here and we were supposed to drift away off after our day in the sun. But we weren’t going to go with the script - we’re here to win and that was the bottom line. That’s it. We fell we’re due a bit of respect now.
"Those players deserve respect. I think the county is starting to become aware of how good they are now, and performances like Cork, Derry and this performance surely will bring some respect to them or bring the type of respect they should get and deserve."
The All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo or Tyrone will take place on Sunday, August 21st and although Tipperary will be cast as an underdog once more Liam Kearns believes that his players have earned the right to be regarded as contenders: "These boys are ambitious - they will be quite happy to go up against either Tyrone or Mayo. I know nobody will give us a chance again, but we deserve to have a crack at it. We have earned our right to be here”.
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