Tipperary face their old tormentors Limerick in Saturday’s league semi-final. Such matches come with pre-cooked alibis: it’s only the league and the championship is coming fast down the tracks – better to keep the powder dry for later in the year.
It has been a feature of Tipp’s spring campaigns that they rarely appear bothered about winning the title and this year is the 16th since the Croke Cup was last taken back to the county.
Eamonn Corcoran is something of an outlier, as a Tipperary man with three league medals from 1999, 2001 and 2008. The second one came during an all-conquering season when the county won every competition it entered from preseason to All-Ireland final.
He remembers then manager Nicky English putting an emphasis on the league that year and he remains convinced that such competitiveness is the best way to approach the competition.
“Nicky set a tone in that year’s league by putting a huge focus on it. He wanted to foster a winning mentality or habit. It started with the Waterford Crystal League, the national league and then on to the Munster and All-Ireland championship,” said Corcoran.
“I think Liam Cahill has had the same attitude this year. They haven’t lost a game yet even though he blooded a lot of players. I always worry about teams that pick and choose games they want to win and others where they just turn up. It’s a cliche that winning is a habit but I do believe that it gives confidence because there were a lot of questions about this team.
“I would be a big believer in going for everything.”
Cahill won the league last year with Waterford but went on to have very poor championship. Corcoran doesn’t believe that the two were necessarily connected.
“People are making a lot of that fact in isolation. It didn’t work out but I don’t believe that Waterford threw everything into the league and had nothing left for the championship. You judge it one game at a time. Look at all the teams that have bad leagues, followed by bad championships.
“I like Liam’s approach. Every time a player pulls on the jersey, he should be fully committed and I would worry about mixed messages if a manager was saying before certain games that it doesn’t matter what the result here is. I don’t think that’s the right culture for a dressingroom.”
The weekend’s first semi-final – Cork play Kilkenny in the other on Sunday – is also a great opportunity to achieve a positive result against All-Ireland champions Limerick, who have recorded some very big wins over Tipperary in recent years.
“People say it’s a league semi-final but I strongly believe that we need to have a go against Limerick. I mean they’ve had the upper hand on all teams over the past few years but if Tipp could turn over Limerick and say that we’ve taken them on and beaten them, that’s a psychological lift.
“Keep losing to teams and it does become a mental block. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a challenge or a league match. Opponents have to try to go after Limerick because they need to believe they can win and if they do that breeds confidence.”