National Football League Division 2

Tipperary footballers need a result against Kildare to keep fate in their own hands

Michael Quinlivan

Will Michael Quinlivan be recovered enough from his recent injury to start for Tipperary against Kildare on Saturday next in Newbridge (2.30 pm).

ALLIANZ NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE DIVISION 2

Tipperary footballers’  penultimate game in Division 2 of the National Football League goes ahead in Newbridge on Saturday next with  vital points on offer as Tipp try to extricate themselves from the relegation spot they currently hold  (throw-in 2.30 pm).

With only three points to show from their opening five games in this year’s campaign, a third defeat in-a-row for Liam Kearns’ side, could, depending on results elsewhere, take Tipp’s Division 2 status out of their own hands for the final game. Tipp will play Clare at Semple Stadium on Sunday, March 24 - when even a win in that game might not be enough to save our skins if Tipp do not collect something on Saturday next.

To avoid all those permutations Tipperary will be well aware heading to the ‘Short Grass County’ that another slip up cannot be entertained - that said it will be a huge task to get a result against Kildare who only last year were operating in Division 1.

Currently occupying one of the two relegation spots, alongside Cork to whom they lost to in Semple Stadium last Saturday week, Tipperary have been forced to go  through this campaign operating at less than full strength due to multiple injuries. At one stage Liam Kearns counted 10 bodies from his original 40-man panel than he could not select from.

However, post-match after the three-points defeat to ‘The Rebels’, the Kerryman pointed out that there were now five players coming back into contention that he thought would be available for next Saturday’s game against the Lily Whites.

Top of the wish list  amongst all Tipperary supporters will be Michael Quinlivan who has missed all of this year’s campaign following a knee surgery procedure in January. The 2015 All-Star has been sorely missed in the Tipperary vanguard with his absence bringing noticeable extra attention in all games upon the shoulders of the team captain Conor Sweeney. In fairness to the Ballyporeen man he has soldiered on as a leader and contributed seven points against the Leesiders the last day out. It would be a big fillip for Tipp though if the Clonmel Commercials man is deemed fit to start against the Kildare.

Amongst the others who Liam Kearns is hopeful of calling on for Saturday are Ardfinnan’s Gavin Whelan who played a prominent part in his club’s march to a county senior football final last year, and Golden/Kilfeacle’s Shane O'Connell whose defensive and counter-attacking probes have also been sorely missed in a campaign that has seen Tipp failing to hit top gear except in spots, most notably the second half of their only victory to date, when they brushed aside the other side relegated from the top flight last year, Donegal.

Paudie Feehan (Killenaule), who was with the Tipperary senior hurling panel last year, took a place on the bench against Cork having recovered from a recent shoulder injury and he too may well join his brother Jimmy in the line-up for the Kildare game or at least play some part in the proceedings.

Evan Comerford (Kilsheelan/ Kilcash) who was injured during the Fermanagh game will be expected to regain the No. 1 spot from Michael O’Reilly, but full credit to the young Commercials custodian who stepped up to the mark in his appearances against Fermanagh, Donegal, Armagh and Cork - he did nothing wrong and has a bright future ahead.

  The sides last met in the National Football League in Division 3 in March of 2016 when Kildare were much too strong for the home side (2-13 to 1-5) in a game played at Clonmel - it was the first and  last league match played at the Western Road venue under Liam Kearns’ watch. Tipperary footballers haven’t had a competitive game in the county capital since then. 

Like next Saturday’s game, the 2016 version was the second last fixture of the campaign - Kildare would ultimately be promoted alongside Clare, with Tipperary having to go down to the final day to avoid relegation to Division 4.  (Tipp drew away to Sligo). Kildare  were also promoted the following year to the top flight but made an immediate return to the second rung last year.

Gone from the Tipperary reckoning of three years ago are Ciaran McDonald, Alan Moloney, Peter Acheson, Martin Dunne and Jason Lonergan; while Ian Fahey, George Hannigan and Shane Leahy made appearances as subs that day too. Other than that Liam Kearns has most of that panel still available to him.

 While Tipperary have only three points at present, Kildare stand on five points. For them Saturday’s home game is pivotal and the points on offer are precious. A win for Cian O’Neill’s side over his fellow Kerryman-managed Tipp would propel them into a possible final day promotion push against Donegal in Letterkenny. Should Kildare lose to Tipperary they could very well have to get something out of that Donegal clash just to avoid relegation!

Such is the importance of this game to both sides.

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