Tipperary manager Liam Kearns.
The games continue to come thick and fast for Tipperary senior footballers in Division 2 of the National Football League and on Sunday Liam Kearns’ side head for Cusack Park in Ennis to do battle with Clare.
Following an opening game victory over Cork in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, which was seen as a dream start to the seven game campaign, Tipp suffered a demoralising defeat on Sunday last at home to Roscommon.
The loss for Tipp against ‘The Rossies’ at Semple Stadium, was according to Tipp manager Liam Kearns “a harsh lesson for my lads but we will learn from it,” he said after last Sunday’s game.
Tipp led at one stage in the second half led by seven points, but managed just one point in the closing 20 minutes of the game as Roscommon staged a comeback to snatch what was an unlikely looking victory even with eight minutes to play..
Last Sunday’s setback for Tipp makes this weekend’s fixture against Clare all the more significant and Tipperary will be most anxious to return to winning ways in order to stay in touch with the top end of the table.
After just two rounds of games in Division 2 all eight teams have dropped points in what is shaping up to be a cliffhanger of a campaign for promotion and relegation.
Clare opened with a home draw against Cavan in Ennis the same day that Tipp were victorious in Cork, but ‘The Banner’ took a battering in Navan on Sunday last when losing by 14 points against Meath, 0-21 to 0-7.
That heavy loss for Colm Collins’ charges already places them in the relegation zone and they will naturally be fired up for the visit of Tipp. And should Clare win on Sunday they will land Tipperary into the relegation zone that they will escape. So plenty to play for then.
After a superb performance in Cork, Tipperary looked like they had continued that good form in the game against Roscommon. The return of 3-9 would be good enough to win most games but the concession of 1-17 will be a major concern for the Tipp rearguard, with 1-5 given away without reply in the vital last 10 minutes.
For last Sunday’s game Liam Kearns made two changes from the team which started against Cork, bringing in John Meagher and Liam Casey with Emmet Moloney and Liam Boland dropping to the subs.
Tipp’s halfback line of Bill Maher, Robbie Kiely and Jimmy Feehan came under most pressure against Roscommon and it will be interesting to see how that line might be tweaked for Ennis.
The full-forward line accounted for 3-7 of Tipp’s 3-9 tally on Sunday with only a single point (Liam Casey) coming from play from outside of the Conor Sweeney, Michael Quinlivan and Liam McGrath trio. In contrast Roscommon had seven scorers from outside their full forward line. That overdependency on Sweeney, Quinlivan and McGrath for scores needs to be addressed also.
Cusack Park in either code in any age group is always a serious test for a visiting Tipperary team. As ever, nothing less than a fully-committed and battling display will be required on Sunday. Clare are a second season Division 2 side so you would expect them to be that little bit more experienced and battled hardened at this level. Having yet to register a win in the campaign to date Clare will know that a win against Tipperary is a must to kick start their own campaign with some serious assignments still ahead.
Normally home advantage is a positive for any side but for Tipperary football of late it has been something of the opposite.
Lamenting last Sunday’s lost to Roscommon and looking ahead to the Clare game Liam Kearns said..
“We seem to be better on the road that’s our record, we won all our games away from home last year (v Laois, Offaly and Armagh) and we won our first game away from home (v Cork) so we seem to be better on the road. Unfortunately we are not doing as well at home,” he stated. (Tipp also lost home league matches last year to Sligo and Louth).
So Tipp will know that they will have to continue that four-game unbeaten away streak in Ennis considering they still have games in Newry and Cavan to come. Hopefully they can oblige.