A glorious decade for Tipperary GAA

John Costigan


John Costigan


Brendan Maher

Brendan Maher with the Liam MacCarthy Cup

John Costigan takes a look back on a decade of hurling and football which will stand with any of Tipperary's great eras

Since the lockdown in March, I have had the opportunity to watch past games involving Tipperary over the past decade and as a result I have come to the conclusion that the period (2009 – 2019) must go down as one of the county’s most successful in its proud history.

The narrow defeat by Kilkenny after extra time in a thrilling League final in the spring of 2009 with some of the minors from the back to back All Ireland victories of 2006 and 2007 featuring prominently, gave a ray of hope that Liam Sheedy and his team was putting a unit together that might challenge the dominance of Kilkenny in the then hurling world.

Tipp captured the Munster title in defeating Clare and advanced to All Ireland v Kilkenny who were going for their fourth in a row. Tipperary really gave a massive display on that great September occasion and but for a wrong penalty decision which enabled Henry Shefflin to put the Cats one point in front with seven or eight minutes to go it could have been Tipp’s day. The Tipp people don’t do defeat well but this was one occasion that gave a different picture. Thousands turned out for the team’s homecoming on Monday night to say thanks to a gallant group for a heroic effort.

Thurles CBS in winning the Harty Cup and All Ireland Colleges titles gave further evidence of the health of the underage scene in Tipp. hurling. Future All Star and two times All Ireland winner James Barry (Upperchurch – Drombane) captained their excellent team.

The very successful John Evans era in Tipp football had commenced and (2009) saw Tipp win the Division (3) National League title with a great victory over Down in Pearse Park, Longford. There were signs in the underage football performances also that the good work done by David Power with the development squads was bearing fruit.

2010 started poorly for Tipperary at senior hurling level with defeat to Cork in round one of the Munster Championship. They bounced back through the qualifiers defeating Wexford, Offaly and Galway to reach All Ireland semi final versus Waterford. Tipp having overcome Waterford by (3-19) to (1-18) were once more paired with the old enemy Kilkenny in another memorable final.

The Cats were going for five in a row but a super display by Tipp with the highlight being Lar Corbett’s hat trick, saw Eoin Kelly bring the cup back to Thurles amidst great rejoicing.
The (u-21) team captained by Padraig Maher won the (u-21) crown the following Saturday evening defeating Galway impressively before 21,000 excited fans in Semple Stadium.

Liam McGrath lifts the All-Ireland minor football crown for Tipperary and right in action for the Tipp seniors

The John Evans era was flourishing and a Tipp victory over Kerry in (U-21) football on a wintry March evening in Tralee by (1-7) to (1-6) was the counties first in the grade and ensured that Tipp had won a Munster Championship in every grade in both codes. Dublin proved too strong for Tipp in the All Ireland semi- final. The senior footballer’s year ended with defeat by Kerry in Munster and the Dubs in the qualifiers.

In 2011 a facile Munster final victory over Waterford (7-19) to (0-19) augured well but a less impressive victory over Dublin in the All Ireland semi-final left doubts as to how Tipp would do in the final against our old friends from Noreside, Kilkenny , and in the end they were beaten by four points.

The senior footballers were competitive in the League and held their position in Division (3). The championship brought no joy as they lost to Kerrey in the Munster championship and to Laois on the qualifiers.
The real story of 2011 was the All Ireland success of our minor footballers, their first since 1934. They beat Kerry in the Munster semi-final, Cork in the Munster Final, Meath in the All Ireland quarter final, Roscommon in the All Ireland semi-final and a never to be forgotten All Ireland victory over Dessie Farrell’s Dubs in the final. It was a marvellous achievement by David Power and his team ably assisted by the very able John Evans.

2012 was another successful year in terms of silverware won. The senior hurlers once more retained the provisional crown but lost the All Ireland semi-final to Kilkenny in a game the less said about the better.
The minor hurlers won the All Ireland minor title defeating Dublin in a replayed final. The minor footballers retained their provincial title with a great (2-14) to (1-14) victory over Kerry in the Gaelic Grounds but lost heavily to Mayo in the All Ireland series.

The senior footballers were showing progress without getting the breaks needed and despite qualifier wins over Offaly, Wexford and Antrim came up short against Down (1-13) to (0-11) in the next round.
The (U – 21) hurlers lost the Munster Final to Clare (1-16) to (1-14) but got compensation as Tipp beat Clare in the Munster Intermediate hurling final. In the All Ireland Final Tipp defeated Kilkenny by (3-13) to (1-17) and the late and much lamented Eddie Connolly had led the team to a well-deserved victory. 

Eoin Kelly and Seamus Callanan follow in a very distinguished line of Premier All-Ireland winning captains

2013 was a quiet year. Once more the senior hurlers lost the League Final to Kilkenny by (2-17) to 0-20) in Nolan Park. In the first round of the Munster Championship, Limerick defeated Tipp by (1-18) to (1-15). As luck would have it Tipp were paired with Kilkenny in the first round of the qualifiers in a never to be forgotten evening on Noreside with the venue packed two hours before throw in. Kilkenny were victors after a great game (0-20) to (1-14).

The Tipp intermediate team retained the Intermediate All Ireland defeating Kilkenny once more in the final by (2-14) to (1.14) having overcome Cork in provincial final by (0-19) to (0-18). Championship defeats by Kerry in Munster and Galway in the qualifiers brought the curtin down early on proceedings at Senior Football level.
With Peter Creedon at the helm in football, Tipperary won Division (4) of the National League beating Clare by (1-16) to (1-15) in an exciting 2014 final. Cork proved too strong for Tipp in Round 1 of Munster Championship. Tipp beat Longford and Laois in the qualifiers but lost to Galway in Round (3) by (4-17) to (4-12).

The senior hurlers with Eamonn O' Shea as manager lost the first round of the Munster Championship to Limerick. They had a very successful run in the qualifiers beating Cork, Offaly, Dublin, and Galway and once more Kilkenny emerged from the other side. Tipperary had lost the 2014 League Final to Kilkenny in a thriller in Thurles on the score (2-25) to (1-27) and they looked forward in anticipation to the All-Ireland showdown. It was a game for the ages and it ended all square in what I regard as one of the best hurling games I ever witnessed.

Kilkenny made a number of changes in replay and deservedly won a tough battle by three points (2-17) to (2-14).
2015 started on a bright note with Tipperary winning their second ever (U-21) Munster Football title beating Cork by (1-15) to (3-8) in Thurles. They played Dublin in the All Ireland semi-final in Tullamore and had a resounding victory (0-14) to (0-12). The final in Parnell Park, Dublin against Tyrone saw Tipp loose by a one point margin (1- 11) to (0-13). It was most disappointing as Tipp could have been victorious.

Our minor hurlers won the Munster title but lost the All Ireland Final to Galway by (4-13) to (1-16). Our minor footballers lost the Munster Final to Kerry, but having defeated good Galway and Kildare teams on the way, reached the All Ireland Final but lost heavily to the Dubs (4-16) to (0-6).
The senior hurlers lost the League semi-final to Waterford. They once more reorganised and won the Munster Final but lost the All Ireland semi-final to one of our bogey teams Galway by a one point margin.

In senior football Tipp were competitive but having lost to Kerry in Munster and defeating Louth in the qualifiers round one, they were eliminated by Tyrone in Thurles (0-19) to (0-7).
Our underage hurling continued to be strong with Thurles CBS once more winning the prestigious Harty Cup.
A very good (U-21) hurling team lost to subsequent All Ireland Champions Limerick in a classic encounter on Shannon side. It was a busy year for Tipp supporters but an enjoyable one.

What a year 2016 turned out to be. The senior hurlers with a new manager Mick Ryan captured the Munster title beating Cork, Limerick and Waterford on the way, Galway once more emerged to contest the All Ireland and Tipp scraped home by one point (2-19) to (2-18) much to the relief of the Premier supporters. Once more Kilkenny were our opposition in the final and Tipp with the McGrath brothers, the Maher brothers, Bubbles and the irrepressable Seamie Callanan giving super displays Tipp were victors by (2-29) to (2-20). Our brilliant captain Brendan Maher received the famous McCarthy Cup to resounding cheers
In what proved a memorable day for the McGrath family, Brian led Tipp to a (1-21) to (0-17) victory over our neighbours Limerick, thus repeating their Munster final victory in minor hurling.

The football story of 2016 was a memorable one. For the first time in decades Tipp beat Cork in Munster semi final in Thurles by (3-15) to (2-16).
The Munster final versus Kerry was a disappointment but under Liam Kerins management we went to Breffni Park and beat Derry by (1-21) to (2-17).
The next step was Croke Park v Galway and with a marvellous display Tipp came out on top by (3-13) to (1-10).
For the first time in eighty one years Tipp were in the All Ireland semi-final v Mayo. With over twenty five thousand Tipp supporters in attendance the team gave a wonderful account of themselves and could have won it. They lost out in the end by (2-13) to 0-14). It was the platform on which Acheson, Quinlivan, Kiely, Stephen O Brien and that dynamo Brian Fox showed one and all that Tipp could play football with the best.

As 2017 commenced it looked like Tipp could have another great year. The senior footballers building on the success of 2016 won the Division 3 League Final beating Louth by (3-19) to (0-19) in the final. They lost to Cork in the semi -final of the Munster Championship. They had a great win over Cavan in the first round of the qualifiers but Armagh ended their year by beating them by (1-17) to (1-15).
Our Lady’s, Templemore had a great year winning the Harty Cup for the first time since 1978. They added the All Ireland Colleges Trophy also beating two great Kilkenny nurseries Kilkenny CBS and famed St Kierans in the process.
After two fabulous games with Cork an excellent Tipp minor team exited the championship at the semi-final stage.
It was left to the senior hurlers to bring home the trophies at senior level but it did not happen. They lost the National League Final to Galway by (3-21) to (0-14) and also in the All Ireland quarter final. Galway sent Tipp packing with a fabulous last minute point by Joe Canning from the side line in injury time.

Once more in 2018 Tipp lost a National League Final to Kilkenny (2-23) to (2-17) in what was a lack lustre display. The new championship format in senior hurling saw Tipp failing to qualify for at least a preliminary quarter final. Disappointment was also the lot of the senior footballers as they lost the Munster semi-final to Cork and in round one of the qualifiers Mayo proved superior by (1-19) to (1-11).
The minor hurlers won the Munster title but lost to Kilkenny in the All Ireland semi-final.
With Liam Cahill now in charge of the (U-21) hurling team much was expected. In the Munster Final v Cork, in Cork the Tipp boys were blitzed. For the first time the provincial runners up were allowed back in and Tipp beat a highly rated Galway team by (3-17) to (1-17). This qualified Tipp for the All Ireland Final v Cork and on this occasion Tipp against all the odds beat the rebels by (3-13) to (1-16) on a marvellous occasion in Limerick’s Gaelic Grounds.

The decade ended on a high note with Tipp now under the leadership of Liam Sheedy coming back strongly to win the 2019 All Ireland beating Wexford in the semi-final and our old friends the Cats by fourteen points in the final.
Liam Cahills (U-20) team added the provincial and All Ireland titles to give hurling a great year. The year marked the end of the Kerins era in Tipp with the graph unfortunately moving downwards.
This brought an end to a marvellous decade in Tipp GAA. How it compares with the sixties I will leave that to the judgement of those who remember it.

It produced hurlers of the highest calibre. Have we had better hurlers over the years than Paudie Maher, Brendan Maher, Noel McGrath, Seamie Callanan, Micky Cahill and that iron man Bonner Maher?
To me, the future looks bright as we have the next tier of young men ready and willing to fill the shoes of the above mentioned. I include here Ronan Maher, Cathal Barrett, John McGrath, Bubbles, Barry Heffernan, Brian Hogan Dan McCormack and Jake Morris. The next tier comprising of the stars from Cahills (U-20) and (U-21) All Ireland winning Teams if they apply themselves will be major contributors.

Yes indeed it has been a great decade and for that I salute the various management teams for their input.
Great credit is due to County Board officers that oversaw this era and funded it to the tune of close to €15 million . The one constant through this period was Tim Floyd to whom we say thanks and well done for a wonderful contribution.
Finally thanks are due to our sponsors, supporters, clubs, commercial board, and anyone that put their hands in their pockets to give us an era never to be forgotten.
Míle Buíochas and roll on the twenties.