Tipperary senior football manager Liam Kearns.
Ahead of the opening game in division three of the Allianz National Football League against Antrim Tipperary senior football manager Liam Kearns was in reasonably bullish mood this week. Indeed, Kearns indicated that Tipperary must win their home games in the division in order to force their way into the promotion picture.
“We will be looking to win the match,” Liam Kearns told the Tipperary Star.
Tipperary will host Antrim at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday, February 5th at 2pm - the Premier County’s schedule features four home games and places Kearns’ men in a position to challenge for promotion.
“If we want to get promoted we have to win our home matches,” Liam Kearns said.
“We have four home matches and we really need to win them all. We are in Thurles and we have got to have enough about us to go and win the match (against Antrim). That’s the bottom line. We will be going out to win the match and we will be very disappointed if we don’t,” the Kerry man added.
And, the gravity of the situation, according to Liam Kearns, is not lost on the players: “the players realise that it is important that we win our home matches. They feel that we need to get out of division three as well so they are definitely up for it. We’re not anywhere near 100% fitness-wise, but hopefully we will have enough about us to get the job done. It’s a home game and the onus is on us to win.”
Antrim won promotion from division four in 2016. The sides last faced one another in 2014 when Antrim made the trip to Thurles and lost on a 2-17 to 3-20 scoreline. There was just three points between them (2-12 to 1-12) in the 47th minute of that encounter, but Tipperary finished strongly with Barry Grogan (2-7) and Conor Sweeney (1-7) catching the eye. A shocking attendance of just 217 turned up Semple Stadium for that contest - surely supporters of the blue and gold can do better this time?
Watch out here for an enthusiastic Antrim team who are eager to make their mark on division three.
Tipperary will follow up the game against Antrim with another home game - this time a clash with Sligo in Thurles on Sunday, February 12th before facing Laois (away) on Saturday, February 25th.
“You would have to take the first two rounds of the league together - they are seven days apart, they are both at home and we need to win them both,” Liam Kearns explained.
“Winning one without winning the other won’t be good enough - we have to win both games; that’s my view. We have a tough game away against Laois in the third round. So, these first two matches are important. We are not quite at our best, but, at the same time, hopefully we will have enough about us to get the job done.”
Tipperary, however, will be restricted by a number of significant injuries. Tipp, for instance, will field without five of the team that started last August’s All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo. Colm O’Shaughnessy, Ciaran McDonald and George Hannigan are injured, Bill Maher is suspended (red card v Mayo) and 2016 captain Peter Acheson is in Dubai. Meanwhile Conor Kenny and Shane O’Connell are rehabbing long-term injuries while Diarmuid Foley is out with a virus. Indeed, such has been the frantic nature of the last few weeks that Kearns has yet to name his captain for the up-coming season - the manager will announce Peter Acheson’s successor at training on Tuesday evening.
Last week Liam Kearns confirmed that Tipperary will not seek to replace Jerome Stack who stepped down as coach citing personal reasons for his decision to do so - the Kerry native joined Kearns' management team during the off-season.
“Unfortunately Jerome (Stack) has left us for personal reasons, but, no, we won't be bringing in any replacement,” Liam Kearns told the Tipperary Star last week.
“We have the same set up as last year now. So, we will be working away as we are. It's the same set-up that got us to an All-Ireland semi-final last year,” Liam Kearns said.
“Nothing could be done - you have got to be philosophical about it. Coaches come and go in the GAA all the time. So, you have got to be philosophical about it after the way that it happened. It's unfortunate, but that's it,” Kearns added.
During the off-season Liam Kearns added former Kerry under-21 manager Jerome Stack to his back room team as coach. Stack worked previously with the Limerick senior team in 2015, coached Laois and also made a telling impact on the Dromcollogher-Broadford club team.
Golden-Kilfeacle's Shane Stapleton features on the management team as coach-selector alongside Paul Fitzgerald (Fethard). Dave Moriarty heads up the strength and conditioning team alongside Paul Howard while Ian Dowling is the lead physiotherapist with Paul McMahon playing a supporting role. Brian Lacey and Michael Byrnes will perform a key duty for the team this season in terms of performance analysis.
During the league Tipperary will also face Longford (Sunday, March 5th - home), Offaly (Sunday, March 19th - away), Louth (Sunday, March 26th - home) and Armagh (Sunday, April 2nd - away). The division three league final is scheduled for Saturday, April 8th while Tipperary will face either Cork or Waterford on the week-ending Sunday, June 11th in a Munster championship semi-final.
SENIOR FOOTBALL PANEL
The Tipperary senior football panel: Philip Austin (Borrisokane), Liam Boland (Moyle Rovers), Luke Boland (Moyle Rovers), Aidan Buckley (St Patrick’s), David Butler (Knockavilla Kickhams), Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers), Liam Casey (Cahir), Paddy Codd (Killenaule), Evan Comerford (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), Willie Connors (Kiladangan), Martin Dunne (Moyle Rovers), Ian Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), Kevin Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), Jimmy Feehan (Killenaule), Diarmuid Foley (Moyle Rovers), Brian Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty), George Hannigan (Shannon Rovers), Joseph Hennessy (Loughmore-Castleiney), Cian Hennessy (Loughmore-Castleiney), Josh Keane (Golden-Kilfeacle), Jack Kennedy (Clonmel Commercials), Conor Kenny (Borris-Ileigh), Ciarán Kenrick (Moyle Rovers), Robbie Kiely (Carbery Rangers, Cork), Jason Lonergan (Clonmel Commercials), Bill Maher (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), Ciarán McDonald (Aherlow), Aidan McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Emmet Moloney (Drom & Inch), Alan Moloney (Rockwell Rovers), Ross Mulcahy (Moyle Rovers), Shane O'Connell (Golden-Kilfeacle), Kevin O'Halloran (Portroe), Colm O’Shaughnessy (Ardfinnan), Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials), Paul Shanahan (Upperchurch-Drombane), Colm Stapleton (Upperchurch-Drombane), Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen) & Liam Treacy (Loughmore-Castleiney).
NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
DIVISION THREE FIXTURES
Sunday, February 5th
Tipperary v Antrim in Thurles 2pm
Sunday, February 12th
Tipperary v Sligo in Thurles 2pm
Saturday, February 25th
Laois v Tipperary in Portlaoise 7pm
Sunday, March 5th
Tipperary v Longford in Thurles 1pm
Sunday, March 19th
Offaly v Tipperary in Tullamore 2pm
Sunday, March 26th
Tipperary v Louth in Thurles 3pm
Sunday, April 2nd
Armagh v Tipperary in Armagh 2pm