Tipperary senior footballer Kevin Fahey (left) pictured with business partner Ross Peters at their Pro Recovery and Wellness Centre at Parnell Street, Clonmel, which will be fully up and running in t
Munster senior football champions Tipperary take to the field for their first competitive action of the year with a Division 3 South game against Limerick on Saturday. Following on from the heroics of 2020 and with an expectation from many for promotion this year, Tipperary’s opener at LIT Páirc na nGael will be a huge assignment.
In the euphoria of the provincial title win over Cork at Páirc Uí Chaoimh, the huge battle that was the semi-final victory over Limerick two weeks earlier should not be overlooked. Seven points down at the interval, Tipperary, with the help of a somewhat fortunate Liam Casey goal, and a magical sideline kick from All-Star Conor Sweeney forced extra-time. It took another special Brian Fox individual point at the death to break Limerick hearts and also to avoid a penalty shoot-out for the first time ever in the football championship history.
It was that close last November, there was nothing between the sides. Also in the previous year’s championship, Division 4 side Limerick hammered Tipp in Thurles in what was to all intents and purposes the end of Liam Kearns’ era as Tipp senior boss.
Tipp wing-back Kevin Fahey played a prominent role in the second half comeback for Tipp against Limerick just six months ago, scoring an important second half point in the process. Looking forward to Saturday’s game at the same venue, the 2020 All-Star nominee is under no illusions as to what lies ahead.
It was very much a hot and cold show from Tipp the last day, according to Kevin.
“Sometimes whatever it is in the first half of a game we can either turn up and blow teams away or the total opposite can happen. And the Limerick game was just one of those days we didn’t turn up in the first half. Nothing was going right for us and it looked like they had an extra man everywhere. We conceded two goals in the first half and we had it all to do in the second half then.”
Another proud day for the Faheys. Kevin captained Clonmel Commercials to the County Under 21 title in 2016 when they defeated Upperchurch/Drombane in a final played at Boherlahan. He is pictured afterwards celebrating with his mother Kathleen and late father Philip.
Team captain Conor Sweeney came in for special praise from Kevin for his effort in that win.
“It took something really special from Conor Sweeney to save us that day. What a kick from the sideline, what a player. He does that in training regularly. He trains so well, a brilliant player. He is the first one there and the last one to leave always. He leads by example. It was fitting that he got that kind of score on the day as he has been playing an awful lot of years for Tipp,” added Kevin, himself in his sixth year of involvement with the senior squad.
There will be nothing taken for granted by players or backroom team as Tipperary travel to Limerick on Saturday, and having faced the green jerseys regularly in recent years, Kevin Fahey knows exactly what to expect from The Shannonsiders.
“Limerick will be tough as always, they are a well conditioned side. Like their hurlers, their work off the field in the gym is incredible. You would notice that there is a different feel about it when you are playing them; they seem two foot wider, two foot taller. They are after changing their whole set-up, football-wise in recent times. They blew everyone away in Division 4 and they will be a very tough team to play against this year,” continued Kevin.
Despite the disappointment of an underperforming championship exit on the first Sunday in December to Mayo, Tipperary footballers enjoyed the Christmas, deservedly basking in the history of ending an 85-year football famine stretching back to 1935. However, once January came around again there was no time left for resting on their laurels, according to Kevin.
“Last year when sport closed down for months we were relying on doing individual work to keep fitness up, running ourselves, doing gym work, it was a whole different experience we weren’t used to. It was like an individual pre-season for us all.
“We were all linked up during lockdown in a Whatsapp group. We were sending in details of what we were doing in training, what distance we ran, etc., there was no hiding. The Whatsapp group was there to keep everyone honest.
“After Christmas it was the same kind of feeling as the first lockdown but obviously we now knew what to do, what to expect. I would tip away after work at home with weights and keep on top of my fitness. You would be looking at four days a week definitely. We got a schedule every Monday during this lockdown from Robbie (Cannon), consisting of running and gym work,” added Kevin.
But like everyone else during lockdown we all get fed up with too much repetition. Elite athletes and inter-county footballers are no different, it seems.
“I really missed the training. I love going up to Thurles and the banter with the lads. You escape for an hour and-a-half as a team, any worries in the world just leave during that time. But when you are on your own training it is very tough and especially during lockdown. I was working every day and then you had to make time at night to do your own individual training,” he added.
“We went back on Monday (April 19) and did four days the first week but are now back to Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and you have to do your gym session individually on top of that. It’s tough going, especially for the panel members working in Dublin who leave after work and don’t get back to Dublin until 11 or 11.30 at night.
“But the set-up is incredible this year. We have a brilliant backroom team. Everything is done very professionally. We know what to expect every week, every training session. Gear-wise, nutrition, video analysis, hotels, it is all gradually getting better and better. Especially with the help of Friends of Tipperary Football and others who help us with funding. It has always improved every year. They do a lot for us in the background,” added Kevin.
“It is huge for us to have such an experienced back-up. When all these guys talk you listen, David Power, Paddy Christie, Declan Browne, Charlie McGeever, Robbie Cannon and the rest of them, these guys have been there and done that in their day. Obviously the forwards would learn incredible stuff from Deckie Browne, same with the backs from Paddy Christie,” said Kevin, now a proud holder of Munster medals at minor, under 21 and senior grade.
Despite carrying the mantle of Munster champions, getting promotion will, no doubt, be a big challenge. The top two teams in Division 3 South will then go head- to-head with the top two teams in Division 3 North, with the eventual finalists guaranteed promotion. Ulster champions Cavan are in Division 3 North and they will fancy themselves for one of those spots.
But Kevin Fahey knows that Tipp must get up the league table if they want to experience success more regularly.
“Following up a good year with another is always hard in any sport but we are looking forward to getting out of Division 3 and playing Limerick, Wicklow, Offaly and whoever else to get back up to Division 2. We need to be playing at a higher level.
“We felt it against Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final. They were a different animal with the pace of their game. They are a Division 1 team and we have to be playing teams like that all the time to get to that pace and skill level. You only get better by playing the better teams, the higher you can climb in the league the better the level of performance required,” he said.
With the country now slowly emerging from a second lockdown Kevin will be hoping for a busy year ahead both on and off the field.
As well as keeping down a full-time job with Waterlogic, based in Clonmel, and his involvement in club and county football, Kevin and his Clonmel Commercials clubmate Ross Peters are bringing their passion for sport one step further in the coming weeks with the opening of a new business venture.
Kevin explains: “As much as we all love sports, and both Ross and I are sports mad, the downside of participation can be injuries, and anyone who has ever played sport has been injured at some point.
Kevin Fahey tackles Mayo's Matthew Ruane in last year's All-Ireland semi-final at Croke Park.
“Next month we will be opening up a Recovery and Wellness Centre at Parnell Street in Clonmel (over Coco’s Restaurant). It will be a fully-equipped centre specially designed to help those recovering from injury or simply seeking an edge to their performance. We have all been to St Patrick’s Well for the cold water therapy, and gone for massages, and other treatments, etc. Ross and I now want to assist, not only teams and individual athletes, but also non-sports participants who can benefit also by using these state-of-the-art facilities.
“We have cryotherapy baths, which provide absolutely amazing benefits using water temperatures just above freezing - no more immersions in St Patrick’s Well. We also have infrared saunas, which provide all the benefits of the traditional sauna but without the hard-to-bear heat and steam. And we also have compression boots, which can work on the whole leg or target individual leg muscles, it’s kind of like a sleeping bag for your leg, in layman’s terms. We are confident the Recovery and Wellness Centre will prove very popular,” added Kevin.
In every way we all hope it will be a very rewarding year ahead on and off the field for Kevin Fahey and the Tipperary footballers.
Subscribe or register today to discover more from DonegalLive.ie
Buy the e-paper of the Donegal Democrat, Donegal People's Press, Donegal Post and Inish Times here for instant access to Donegal's premier news titles.
Keep up with the latest news from Donegal with our daily newsletter featuring the most important stories of the day delivered to your inbox every evening at 5pm.