Tipperary manager Peter Creedon is relishing the prospect of tackling Kerry in Sunday’s Munster Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Fitzgerald Stadium, Killarney (2pm).
And Creedon insists that all of the pressure is on the hosts as the 2013 provincial championship gets underway for both teams.
Kerry narrowly avoided relegation from Division 1 of the Allianz National Football League and their manager Eamonn Fitzmaurice could do with a good performance from his team to get supporters on board for the summer.
Tipp can come in under the radar and upset the Kingdom but they’ll need to get off to a good start as Kerry will look to blitz the visitors in the early stages.
Creedon said: “We’re looking forward to the game and we’re expecting the players to perform to the best of their ability. Realistically, all of the pressure is on Kerry. The expectation on their shoulders is to beat us and beat us comprehensively. It’s up to us to challenge that and to stay in the game for as long as we possibly can.”
Brian Fox is ruled out through injury and Michael Quinlivan is also unavailable, as he is travelling to America for the summer months.
However Tipperary still have plenty of experience in their ranks and Creedon could hand senior championship debuts to promising underage graduates such as Ian Fahey, Jason Lonergan and Philip Quirke.
Creedon added: “The positives are that Ian Fahey has been introduced to senior inter-county football and John Coughlan has been another big addition to the squad. Barry Grogan has found very good form too recently.
“We know that Kerry will be a lot of people’s favourites for the All-Ireland – as they are every year. And in recent years, whoever has beaten them has won the All-Ireland. Dublin won the 2011 final and Donegal beat them last year. And back in 2010 Kerry lost to Down, who then went on to contest the final against Cork.”
However Tipp established a brilliant platform for themselves last year with an historic march to round 4 of the All-Ireland qualifiers.
Creedon acknowleged: “We found great form in the championship last year and I do believe that the firmer ground suits our team much better. A lot of these guys have beaten Kerry in the past (underage) and while we realise that it’s going to be a difficult challenge, we’ll try to go out and play with confidence and express our ability.
“It’s a huge challenge to play the game in Killarney but it suits us because there should be a decent crowd there. The fact that we’re travelling down there the night before gives us a bit of extra time to bond together and we’ll need to be very much united to get through 70 minutes against Kerry in Killarney.”
An interesting sub-plot from a Tipperary viewpoint is the fact that University of Limerick-based Cian O’Neill is a member of Kerry’s backroom team.
O’Neill is the highly-rated physical trainer who played a key role when Liam Sheedy managed Tipp’s senior hurlers to All-Ireland glory in 2010. And Kildare native O’Neill was also involved with Mayo in their march to last year’s All-Ireland senior football final.
Creedon noted: “Cian O’Neill is a highly-regarded coach and has been successful in Tipperary. He helped to bring Mayo to the All-Ireland final last year and I’ve no doubt that he’ll want to get off to a winning start with Eamonn Fitzmaurice.
Kerry discovered throughout the League that their so-called older, seasoned players are still excellent talents. And when the chips were down against Tyrone in their last game, the old hands showed how games are won in pressurised situations.”
Tipp may have drawn the short straw in Munster again when they were paired with Kerry for a fourth successive year.
But a confident Creedon insisted: “I geninuely prefer playing the top teams. That’s where you find out about yourself as a manager and where your team actually stands. Even though we’re a Division 4 team challenging a Division 1 outfit, with the right mental attitude anything is possible.
Over the next ten years I expect that with a bit of luck, and by managing the influx of young players into the senior squad, Tipp should expect to beat Cork and Kerry on a more regular basis.
Last week’s minor win (against Cork) was extremely positive and it just shows that if a team works really hard and sticks to a method of play, they can turn over so-called better teams. And I’d call on supporters to at least watch the game on TV, even if they can’t make it down to Killarney. I’ve seen at first hand how hard our players work and they’re deserving of people’s support.”