‘Tipperary can aspire to come back to this level on a regular basis’

After the game captain Peter Acheson confirmed that he was emigrating next year

Started in Dungarvan's Fraher Field, ended in Croke Park. Some distance travelled. "I am not going to sit here and say I was Jim McGuinness and I told them at the start of the year we were going to win the All-Ireland," said Liam Kearns. "We didn't try to change the face of football, we tried to play it the way it should be played."

Eventually, albeit bravely, by playing football as "it should be played", they lost. It takes Kearns a few questions to put some rationale around Tipperary's football season. Seven men went away from them last winter. Two of them, Séamus Kennedy to the hurlers and Colin O'Riordan joining the Sydney Swans, are irreplaceable.

Still they beat Cork, Derry, Galway to make it this far. They troubled Mayo until the depth of their panel was tested by Robbie Kiely’s black and Bill Maher’s red card. They competed for as long as possible. Now it can go either way.

They can become a team that returns to All-Ireland semi-finals year on year or they will go the way of Fermanagh (2004) or Wexford (2008); profiteers of a fortuitous draw, a kink in what the GAA recently publicly conceded is a deeply flawed championship structure.


Successful summer

“Well, I’ll leave others to judge that,” said Kearns on completion of his most successful summer as an inter-county manager. “These boys have been very comfortable out here. They didn’t let themselves down against a team that has played in six semi-finals in a row.

“Tipperary can aspire to come back to this level on a regular basis, providing we get things right and get total commitment. There are a lot of players in Tipperary who could have been with us today and weren’t. We need to get our set-up right back in the county.”

How will Liam go about this? “Ah, there are a lot of things. You would have to sit down with the football board, with the county board and discuss it. There are loads of things I could say here but it is not the forum for it. We need to make plans for the future.”

So the squad can be strengthened significantly over the coming winter? “I would hope so yeah. I would hope this run will galvanise the players in the county and even the supporters to get behind the football team. There is no reason why this county cannot compete — we have shown it this year; footballers in an All-Ireland semi-final and hurlers in the final. So why not?”

Captain emigrating

After the game Tipperary captain Peter Acheson confirmed he was emigrating. That's why. "There is Dublin, Mayo and Kerry left. If they lost seven or eight of the players of the calibre we lost this year I wonder how they would survive.

“Dublin are trying to replace Jack McCaffrey and Rory O’Carroll. Well, we lost two of those plus another five.

“We are coming from division three and these players never made excuses – they just went out and played their football. They got within a very close call of an All-Ireland final.” Kearns conceded that Mayo remain significantly off the standard required to finally win an All-Ireland.

“Dublin or Kerry – that’s going to be a fair test of them in the final. I’d give them a lot of credit insofar as they are changing their tactics and adapting from game to game and during games. Maybe that would have been a criticism of them in previous years.”

There is a but: “I think their panel and play may have been stronger two years ago. The year they drew with Kerry in Croke Park and got beaten in the Gaelic Grounds – I thought they were at their peak there. I don’t know if they are at their peak now.

“Look, they are in a final . . . they are getting a lot of breaks. Maybe their name is on the cup now. I hope it is. I would love to see Mayo win an All-Ireland. But sentiment doesn’t come into it. “It’s up to Mayo to make it happen.”

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey

Gavin Cummiskey is The Irish Times' Soccer Correspondent