Tipp rejoice: 'Until now, we’d never really got our breakthrough as seniors'

Quinlivan beams after team turn potential into success in historic win in Breffini Park

Derry’s Niall Holly with Phillip Austin of Tipperary. Tipp beat Derry to qualify for their first All- Ireland quarter-final. Photograph: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

Derry’s Niall Holly with Phillip Austin of Tipperary. Tipp beat Derry to qualify for their first All- Ireland quarter-final. Photograph: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

 

Potential, as Michael Quinlivan observed, is the easy part. Turning it into actual, tangible success is the really difficult bit. So, asked which was more significant, beating Derry to qualify for a first All-Ireland quarter-final, or Tipperary’s All-Ireland minor triumph of 2011, both of which he starred in, the Clonmel man barely paused for breath.

“This is easily as good a day as I’ve ever had in a Tipperary jersey,” Quinlivan said, joking that he’d be a millionaire by now if he’d got a cent for each time he was told Tipp’s big breakthrough was just around the corner. “It’s all very well saying that but it does take a team to come along and break the door down too.

“You can talk about how we’ve been good at underage level but that minor win was five years ago and, until now, we’d never really got our breakthrough as seniors.

“We’d beaten a couple of teams that might be ranked a small bit ahead of us but it was nothing to write home about. I think this year it’s changed a little, we’ve now taken out two teams who were either in Division 1 this year or in recent years and that’ll bring a lot of recognition with it.”

Quinlivan was speaking well over an hour after Saturday’s historic win at Kingspan Breffni Park. Wearing a Derry jersey turned inside out, the AIB Munster club medallist, who flitted between midfield and full-forward depending on where the need was greatest, tried and failed to keep a broad beam off his face.

Bloodied fingertips

A little earlier, Tipp had been five points up only to see Derry conjure a strong finish for the third weekend running which left the Ulster men two ahead entering injury-time.

Quinlivan’s sixth point of the game followed by two from Sweeney amounted to a quite incredible ending to a rare afternoon.

Tipp’s reward is the last eight clash with Galway on Sunday. Whisper it quietly but having also beaten Cork in the Munster championship for the first time since 1944, an All-Ireland semi-final spot is a realistic target now.

And all without the 11 players who, for various reasons, left the Tipp panel between last year’s Championship and the beginning of this season, a group that included the inspirational young midfield duo of Colin O’Riordan and Steven O’Brien.

“We’ve had our setbacks but that character has stayed in the panel, it’s always been there,” continued Quinlivan. “Even down in Kerry in the Munster final when they really put the foot to our throats with 25 minutes to go, we still came back and got goals. Kerry are an absolutely fantastic team but we felt we needed to put that performance right.

“In fairness, we always do bounce back after losses in Munster. The last couple of years we’ve had fantastic wins against Longford and Louth straight off in the qualifiers, and now Derry, so we knew the performance was in us. I’m just absolutely ecstatic to get over the line.”

The times are certainly changing in Tipp. Not so long ago the idea of a player such as Kevin O’Halloran, from the hurling heartland of Portroe, who has never played a senior club football game, inspiring a win like Saturday’s with his crucial 48th minute goal would have seemed ludicrous.

Incredible day

It’s the end of the line for Derry but they went down swinging at least. Mark Lynch led from the front again with 1-4 while Eoghan Brown got their late goal.

The best player on the pitch was Derry sweeper Danny Heavron who combined his defensive duties with a 0-4 haul and he played in Lynch for his 32nd minute goal also. But this was Tipp’s day and a famous one at that.

“It’ll be two very hungry teams in the quarter-final, ourselves and Galway,” said Quinlivan. “Two teams that will play a nice brand of football. Hopefully we’ll serve up a treat.”

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