Tipperary senior football manager Liam Kearns.
The Tipperary senior football team face into a tough trip to O'Moore Park, Portlaoise on Saturday, February 25th (throw-in 7pm) when Liam Kearns' men face Laois in a key game. And, manager Liam Kearns has named an unchanged side for the third successive game in this year’s campaign.
The Tipperary starting team is as follows: Evan Comerford (Kilsheelan-Kilcash), Alan Campbell (Moyle Rovers), Paddy Codd (Killenaule), Willie Connors (Kiladangan), Kevin Fahey (Clonmel Commercials), Robbie Kiely (Carbery Rangers, Cork), Jimmy Feehan (Killenaule), Alan Moloney (Rockwell Rovers), Martin Dunne (Moyle Rovers), Josh Keane (Golden-Kilfeacle), Liam McGrath (Loughmore-Castleiney), Brian Fox (Éire Óg Annacarty-Donohill, captain), Conor Sweeney (Ballyporeen), Michael Quinlivan (Clonmel Commercials) & Philip Austin (Borrisokane).
And, the Laois starting team has been named as follows: Graham Brody, Darren Strong, Denis Booth, James Kelly, Stephen Attride, Colm Begley, Eoin Buggie, Danny Luttrell, Seán Ramsbottom, Daniel O'Reilly, David Conway, Niall Donoher, John O'Loughlin, Dónal Kingston, Paul Kingston
Tipp lost out to Sligo (1-16 to 2-14) in the last round following a poor display and this week manager Kearns has admitted that his side are under pressure to perform.
“That's what we would be looking for more than anything else - that we perform better than we have in the last two matches and that we let the result look after itself. That's what we are looking for and that's the message that we have sent to the players. We are looking for a performance against Laois. What happens after that we will live with,” Liam Kearns said.
“There is no point in talking about promotion at this stage - every team is beating each other and there is only one team unbeaten after the first two rounds. The results are very unpredictable and it is basically because some teams are in good shape at this time of the year, some teams are behind and other teams are way behind. It all depends on what kind of state that you are in.”
In the last round Tipperary permitted a Sligo team to build a big lead before almost reeling them in thanks to a determined second half fight back. In the end Tipperary lost by just a point having scored 1-6 without reply late in the game, but manager Liam Kearns was not fooled. Tipperary were poor and need to improve.
“We have worked hard and to be perfectly honest we would be very disappointed with our performance against Sligo for sixty minutes of the game,” Liam Kearns said.
“We were not fooled by the last ten minutes and by the fact that we nearly won the game or nearly got out of there with a draw. Our performance was just not good enough. We have had a long, hard look at ourselves and we have been working very hard on the training ground to address the issues that came up in that game. We are hoping for a reaction next Saturday,” Liam Kearns added.
“Our fitness levels are not there yet. We knew that Sligo had been training since the middle of November, had all of their players out on the field and were at their best. We are not at our best and we are aware of that. We are a long way from our best based on what we did against Sligo and against Antrim. We have a lot of ground to make up. It's a case of trying to make it up and that's the bottom line for us. We have lost a home game now and if you don't beat Laois then you are down four points and it will be very difficult then to be involved in the promotion race from there. So, it is a big game on Saturday in fairness.”
That said Saturday night's game under lights does represent an opportunity for Tipperary to show the footballing world what the team is capable of.
“It's an opportunity to show that we are better than we were against Sligo and that's how we are looking at the game,” Liam Kearns agreed.
“We were not happy with what we did against Sligo from start to finish. Alright in the last ten minutes we scored 1-6 and almost pulled it back, but that just masks a poor performance by us.”
Laois senior football manager Peter Creedon.
There will, of course, be added spice to the contest in Portlaoise on Saturday. Laois are managed by former Tipperary boss Peter Creedon who is joined on his management team by former Premier County selector Tommy Toomey and coach Michael McGeehin (Donegal). Creedon stood down as Tipp manager in the summer of 2015, citing work commitments as a school principal at Coláiste Dún Iascaigh in Cahir, but has been tempted back into management by the Laois job.
“Laois had a great win in Armagh and, obviously, you would have to acknowledge that the Laois management have an awful lot of knowledge about our players because they worked with them for many years,” Liam Kearns said.
“Laois are at home and you would have to say that Laois are the favourites, if you check with the bookies, to win promotion. So, on that basis you would have to say that Laois will be fancied to win that game. We are looking for a performance and we will take whatever happens after that.”
In their opening game Laois lost to Louth (0-10 to 2-16) at O'Moore Park in Portlaoise. After the game Peter Creedon admitted that his side had been "comprehensively" beaten, but Laois re-grouped impressively to beat Armagh (2-11 to 0-16) in Armagh. Laois trailed that contest by five points (1-6 to 0-14), but hauled themselves back into the contest in spectacular fashion.
You have to stretch your mind back to 2010 to locate the last league contest between Laois and Tipperary - seven years ago Laois won with two points to spare in Portlaoise (1-13 to 1-11). Tipp struggled badly in the opening half of that game and trailed 0-2 to 1-9 at the interval. A Philip Austin goal, however, dragged Tipp back into contention and two Conor Sweeney points tied it up with nine minutes to play before efforts from Brendan Quigley and Donal Miller saved Laois.
Following the Laois game Tipperary will host a double header at Semple Stadium, Thurles on Sunday, March 5th - in division three of the Allianz National Football League Tipp will take on Longford (throw-in 1pm) while in division 1A of the Allianz National Hurling League Clare will pay a visit to the home of the All-Ireland champions (throw-in 3pm).
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
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)