Tipperary manager Liam Kearns had the satisfaction of managing the 2016 GAA-GPA football All Stars to victory in Friday's exhibition match in Zayed Sports City in Abu Dhabi but it is likely that his main mission in the Emirates would have been to persuade Peter Acheson to return home in time for next season.
The busy centrefielder, who emigrated to Dubai after Tipperary’s historic progress to last August’s All-Ireland football semi-final, scored 1-2 in the winning team’s total. However, in his post-match comments, he didn’t have much to say that might especially encourage his manager beyond leaving open the possibility that he might get home for specific matches.
“Ah, he’s been on four or five times already,” said Acheson of Kearns. “We’ll talk tactics maybe in the new year but look I’m enjoying it out here so I don’t think I’ll go home any time soon.
“Maybe we can sort something out: to play games maybe. We’ll talk maybe. Ah Liam knows the crack. He’s a clever lad; we’ll be talking straight.”
A Moyle Rovers player at home, Acheson was unlucky not to win an All Star this year and was invited into the weekend’s match as a substitute. He said he had been planning the trip to the Middle East for quite a while.
“Yeah, for two or three years nearly. So it was either come here or be single very quickly. In fairness I have a very patient girlfriend,” he says.
“She’s waiting two or three years. We were supposed to come in February this year but then Liam said play the league and then play the championship. I’m delighted I stayed now; it was the best year we ever had.
“It is tough to leave after a year like that but at the same time it is the best time to leave too, with great memories after a great year.”
Acheson works as in business development with an oil and gas company and his partner is a hairdresser. He appeared to rule out a return for the next few years.
“Well, look, we are here for the year; we have a contract signed for a year with the house and stuff. I can’t see myself going home in the next two years. It’s hard to put into words - it’s a great place out here. If you came out and lived here now it would be very hard to go home. So unless something goes wrong I’d say we will be here for a couple of years anyway.
“I’m 26. I had eight years with Tipp, so it was absolutely brilliant.”
Despite his exile he remains upbeat about his county’s prospects of building on the breakthrough of this year.
“Definitely, 100 per cent: I think there are 17 new faces, seven or eight from previous years who have come back in and then another 10 on top of that,” Acheson said.
“So that’s brilliant. There is going to be competition for places, which maybe we didn’t have in recent years because people mightn’t have wanted to put in the effort; in fairness, it is a lot of commitment. But now that we got to the semi-final everybody wants to be a part of it. Tipp football is on the up.”
In the match in Abu Dhabi, the 2016s had a comfortable win over their 2015 predecessors with a scoreline of 14-11 to 10-11.
Once corner forwards Conor Sweeney from Tipperary and Dean Rock from Dublin, who captained the winners, had opened the scoring for the 2016 team they led for the rest of the match and were 9-6 to 5-6 ahead at half-time.
Ciarán Kilkenny of Dublin was top scorer for the 2016s with 3-2, whereas Donegal's Michael Murphy equalled that total for their opponents, who were captained by Dublin's Bernard Brogan.
The 2015s were managed by Tyrone's Mickey Harte.
2016 ALL STARS (13-a-side): D Clarke (Mayo); D Kyne (Galway), R McHugh (Donegal), R Kiely (Tipperary), K Martin (Westmeath, 1-0); P Acheson (Tipperary, 1-2), M Donnelly (Tyrone, 1-1); P Harte (Tyrone, 0-2), M Quinlivan (Tipperary, 2-2), C Kilkenny (Dublin, 3-2); C Sweeney (Tipperary, 2-1), P Geaney (Kerry, 1-1), D Rock (Dublin, 3-0). Sub: J Cooper (Dublin) for McHugh (half-time).
2015 ALL STARS: B Kealy (Kerry); P McMahon (Dublin, 0-1), C McCarron (Tyrone); K O'Connell (Monaghan), C O'Sullivan (Kerry), S Enright (Kerry); B Fenton (Dublin, 1-1), C Cavanagh (Tyrone, 1-0); D Walsh (Kerry, 1-0), N Gallagher (Donegal, 1-1), M Murphy (Donegal, 3-2); C McManus (Monaghan, 2-3), B Brogan (Dublin, 1-3).
Referees: C Lane (Cork, first half), M Deegan (Laois, second half).