Tipperary hope to have Steven O’Brien available to face Cork as he recovers from a hamstring injury. Photo: Bridget Delaney

Tipp have more than just hope in Munster title quest

With all the interest there is over the centenary anniversary of Bloody Sunday next weekend, it would be easy for it to distract Tipperary from their goal of becoming Munster senior football championships for the first time since 1935.

By Shane Brophy


Pairc Ui Chaoimh, Cork

Sunday 22nd November

Throw-in @ 1.30pm (E.T. & Pens)

Referee: Maurice Deegan (Laois)

With all the interest there is over the centenary anniversary of Bloody Sunday next weekend, it would be easy for it to distract Tipperary from their goal of becoming Munster senior football championships for the first time since 1935.

What a fitting way it would be to mark one of the darkest days in Tipperary football history by ending an eight-five year wait for a tenth provincial title, and while they will be underdogs, it is certainly within their capabilities to do it.

Beating Cork in their own backyard is a difficult ask but psychologically it is a little easier than beating Kerry in Thurles for this Tipperary team, as it would have been if the Kingdom had progressed to the final.

While Cork are likely to have gotten a massive boost in confidence from that victory, the tables are now turned as they now become the overwhelming favourites and the pressure comes on them to back up the win over their great rivals to win a first Munster title since 2012.

Cork have won the last three league and championship meetings between the sides, although Tipp can point to their most recent victory against the rebels coming in Pairc Ui Chaoimh in the league in January 2018 so the venue will hold no fears for them.

There’s no doubt this is a massive opportunity this Sunday for Tipperary to make their own mark on history. In 2011 and 2015 when they won Munster titles at minor and under 21 level, it was at the expense of Cork in the final. However, apart from reaching an All-Ireland semi-final in 2016, Tipperary has no silverware at senior level to mark their progression in what has been the counties most successful era in football since the great days of the 1920’s and 30’s.

So, what do Tipperary have to do? They need to harness the emotion of the weekend in the right way to get a performance we haven’t seen from the team this year. Arguably their best was in the 3-13 to 0-21 defeat to Cork in the league in February where they found holes in the Cork defence, and it was only the concession of three poor goals which undermind their performance.

Cork will look to play on that as well but arguably the best line of the Tipperary team since the resumption last month has been their full back line where Alan Campbell, Jimmy Feehan and Colm O’Shaughnessy have been very strong, however, they face their stiffest task in trying to slow down Brian Hurley, Colm O’Callaghan, and Luke Connolly who you would expect to start as Cork are likely to be more offensive in their approach than they were against Kerry.

Behind them, Evan Comerford is a strong presence between the posts but his kickouts have been in consistent. He should be helped in that regard by the presence of Colin O’Riordan, who is expected to go straight into the team. While Liam Casey, Conal Kennedy, Steven O’Brien and Jack Kennedy have all had the moments in the middle of the field in the campaign so far, the extra bit of physicality O’Riordan will be bring will be huge and Tipp can’t afford not to have him on the field for the majority of the game. That middle third battle will be huge up against Ian Maguire, Killian O’Hanlon, John O’Rourke, plus Mark Collins dropped deep from the half forward line will have to be watched closely.

If Jack Kennedy and O’Brien are still compromised by hamstring issues, the decision to start O’Riordan might made a little easier on the management, however, ideally both will be able to play although two and three weeks respectively isn’t much time to fully heal those types of injuries but in a game of such magnitude, they might well be worth the risk.

Tipperary need to play at a high tempo and they have the pacey and athletic players to do so, particularly from half back where Bill Maher, Kevin Fahey and Robbie Kiely are a good launchpad but overall they need to vary their use of the ball and give Conor Sweeney and Michael Quinlivan a greater chance of causing problems with some early ball. Quinlivan has been working hard over the last couple of games for little reward on the scoreboard, but what a game it would be for him to show everyone the ability they earned him an All Star at full-forward in 2016.

In the league encounter, Tipperary caused the Cork defence problems when they moved the ball quickly and having runners coming off the shoulder to kick some superb scores, with Colman Kennedy acting as the creative foil at centre forward and he could well take up that role again.

For a game of this magnitude, it is hard to see the management holding Brian Fox in reserve. He is the heartbeat of the team and his presence on the field will be a settling one for those around him and while he is 32-years-old, he knows how to pace himself to ensure he is still contributing at the end of the game when hopefully the match is still there to be won.

If fate decreed it so, Tipperary should win the Munster Final next Sunday but that isn’t how it works but still there is no doubt that this is a massive opportunity for the Premier County. Apart from a nine-point loss in the 2018 Munster semi-final, all other recent league and championship encounters between the sides have been settled by just a score and that is what provides Tipperary with more than just hope.

Historic victories come when they aren’t expected, just look at Clare in 1992 against Kerry. 100 years on, let the third weekend in November be another special time for Tipperary football, but this time for the right reasons.