Jack Kennedy who was injured in a training session at the weekend and will miss the Cork game on Saturday
Tipperary football followers enjoyed the summer of 2016 so much that it seems, like the swallows of spring, we’ve been waiting for the new championship to return ever since.
The waiting is almost over now and Tipp will begin their Munster campaign on Saturday evening next against Cork in Páirc Uí Rinn (5 pm).
It is hard to believe that it’s twelve months since these sides met at the same stage of the provincial championship in Semple Stadium, Thurles, on a day when Tipperary, finally after 72 years of waiting, got the better of ‘The Rebels’ on a scoreline of 3-15 to 2-16.
Tipp came close to achieving that seismic result two years previously at Páirc Uí Chaoimh under the management of Peter Creedon, when a lead was surrendered late and Cork were let off the hook. But last year, Tipperary, captained by Moyle Rovers’ Peter Acheson finally nailed it.
But a year is a long time in football and Tipp will go into Saturday evening’s game in a much different place this time round.
For a start there is definitely a different focus of attention on the Premier County’s footballers following the heroics of the side during last year’s campaign which saw Tipp not alone conquer Cork, but later in the qualifiers defeat Derry and Galway before ultimately bowing out of the championship against Mayo at the semi-final stage.
Whereas before this year the rest of the country would hardly notice Tipperary beginning their football campaign, this time round there is definitely that added attention, generated by the magnificent displays of Liam Kearns’ side in 2016.
That attention brings its pressures too and Cork will be well prepared for this latest re-match. The Leesiders, already with the benefit of a championship game, scraped past Waterford in Dungarvan last Saturday week. Have no doubts, what Tipp will encounter on Saturday will be a much improved performance from Peadar Healy’s side anxious to atone for last year’s loss.
Tipp, after a profitable league campaign which saw them ultimately defeat Louth in the Division 3 final at Croke Park, having already secured promotion with a shock win at the Gaelic Grounds in Armagh, have been hit with a major injury crisis.
From the starting championship side of last year, influential team captain of 2016, Peter Acheson, is now out of the country working in Dubai. Ciarán McDonald omitted himself from the league campaign and won’t figure on Saturday, while experienced forward Philip Austin and the effective defender Colm O’Shaughnessy won’t be starting either. And another ever-present from last year, goalkeeper Evan Comerford, has been suspended for 12 weeks.
Besides that the Clonmel Commercials cousins, Ian and Kevin Fahey are out, as is Willie Connors who came into the panel this year and started in the Croke Park final against Louth, while Emmet Moloney, who also played in that final, is just back from injury and unlikely to play.
Paddy Codd (Killenaule) picked up and injury in a challenge game against Westmeath and is in a race against time to bit fit for the Cork game.
Paddy Codd, captain two years ago against Cork, and back in the panel this year after taking a year out, also pulled up in a recent challenge game against Westmeath and it remains to be seen whether the Killenaule man will be available.
When you add to the injury list extended panel players Liam Casey and Joe Hennessy the choices are further diminished for the Tipperary selectors as they try to shape a team for this crunch game at Ballintemple.
And if things weren’t bad enough already they took a further setback at a weekend training session when in an A v B game, Clonmel Commercials’ Jack Kennedy, who would almost certainly have started at midfield, pulled up with a hamstring injury that will rule him out of football for at least a month.
The vastly experience Philip Austin seen here in action against Galway last August will be greatly missed against Cork on Saturday at Páirc Uí Rinn.
Recent challenge games against Armagh, Galway and Westmeath haven’t exactly gone the way the Tipperary management team would have liked, posing more questions than answers. Cork will ratchet up the questioning even more on Saturday.
But as last year’s captain Peter Acheson says in his interview on Page 79. “I think this squad works best when the chips are down and their backs are against the wall.” And that’s where we are right now. Let not the euphoria of last year blind our expectations. It is a huge task facing Tipperary on Saturday.