Anthony Shelley from Templemore tells us about his trip to Cavan10 Jul 2017
Cock a doodle doo, cock a doodle doo’ the iPhone rooster cried shrilly as he heralded a new day in the parish of Templemore.
A quick look at the clock which said 8.30am and it was out of bed and into the bathroom where 48 years of living greeted me in the mirror. Dan Ward’s staff in the Templemore Arms Hotel would be serving my breakfast today which would set me up for the two and a half hour trip to Cavan which lay ahead. Thirty minutes later I was gunning the engine into life and heading out past the Protestant Church on Roscrea Road, Willie Nelson is singing “On The Road Again”
There’s a feeling of deja vu about this.
Just then disaster strikes!!!!
My sixteen year old daughter, without even asking I might add, connects her phone to the Bluetooth and almost immediately some lad called George, is telling me about his house in Budapest.
“Sorry dad, do you mind?”
“No, work away” I reply trying to sound like I didn’t mind. Fathers and their daughter eh?
The rest of the journey is spent inside my own head.
I think about Tipperary, Offaly, Westmeath, Longford and Cavan, the counties I’ll pass through today. 520 years ago to the day, Vasco da Gama began his journey to India by sea. He had it handy. He didn’t have to pass through Offaly.
I think how big a loss MQ14 will be and decide that like the caverns Kubla Khan encountered in Xanadu, his loss is measureless to man. Thirty minutes later a WhatsApp message from a friend of mine in Sydney tells me that MQ is going to chance twenty mins. I was at training on Tuesday night and the word was that MQ had no chance of playing and yet in Sydney, Australia, they are better informed than in Dr Morris Park. It’s true what they say, the nearer the church, the further from God.
I arrive in the ground and while the Tipp crowd is small, it is bigger than I expected. For today, the Tipperary footballers will have to make do with the goodwill support of Tipperary Gaa public. While we are a traditional hurling county and are rightly proud of our hurling heritage, I genuinely believe that there is nothing but goodwill towards this Tipperary Football team from 99% of the county. Football may not be their game but that doesn’t mean they want to see this team lose.
Another WhatsApp from Sydney requests regular updates on the score and then another one a minute later, tells me it’s ok, he has got Tom McGrath on the wireless. I should have texted in a request.
The ball is in and the game is on. We immediately take the game to Cavan. A Sweeney free and point of the year, from Jack Kennedy sees us two up after six minutes.
That’s as good as it got for Tipp. Cavan out-score us 7 points to 2 in the last 20 minutes of the first half and we go in for the Jaffa cakes punch drunk and 12-06 down.
The general consensus amongst supporters at half time was that this game was over but to our shame we should have known better.
To condemn this Tipperary football team is a as fool hardy as casting aspersions on the Gospels of Matthew.
Liam Kearns probably spent hours thinking about what he was going to say to his players last Saturday and while I’m not privy to what he did say, the four most important words he uttered last Saturday in Cavan were “Philip Austin, get ready”.
Not since Tyson fought Michael Spinks have we seen an entrance like it. As I type, the Cavan landscapers are tearing the pitch up in Breffni Park to put in a new surface but they might want to employ a plasterer as well because, like Tyson, I can picture Austin, prowling around the dressing room like a caged tiger, punching holes in the walls waiting for the bell to ring to start the second half.
And boy when the bell did ring, these Tipp boys got their wings.
Within five minutes, we had halved the deficit, with scores from Sweeney, Tin Cup and Jack Kennedy.
Liam Kearns still had the five of trumps in his hand. He didn’t hesitate playing it and introduced cyclist, Michael Quinlivan on 50 minutes.
Four more from the brilliant Brian Fox, a Tin Cup free, a Jack Kennedy free and the sublime Philip Austin meant the sides were level with fifteen minutes to go.
But Austin wasn’t finished yet. Another direct run at the heart of the Cavan defence saw him floored for a penalty which was expertly converted by Sweeney.
The experts and non-experts in the 6,500 crowd could see that Cavan were now out on their feet. The Anglo-Celt newspaper will level acres of trees over the coming months to provide paper for the analysis of what went wrong for Cavan in the second half. If the editor of that newspaper is reading this, I’ll sum it up for him in a few lines:
The Cavan defensive set up means that they defend in units of twelve and attack in units of twelve. On a hot day such as Saturday, this is energy sapping as there are only so many 80 yard runs a man can make. I’m not sure it was our intention to rope-a-dope them but that’s exactly what we did.
Mattie McGleenan’s response to Liam Kearns’ five of trumps was to renege by throwing on dual star Seanie Johnson.
The brilliant Robbie Kiely, taking his cue from Austin, burst through the middle to rattle home Tipp’s second goal.
Trumpet Blowing Alert!!!
In my preview last week, I suggested that goals would win this game and Tipp’s ability to convert would swing it in our favour and so it has coming to pass. I’ve finally called something right about this Tipp team and management so I’m going to bask in the glory of finally getting something right!
In as much as they could, Cavan tried to rally but at this stage only a few of them had they heart for the battle and Ciaran Kenrick’s goal was never in danger. They did narrow the margin with a couple of points but with MQ providing a moment of class and Diarmuid Foley doing his best William Tell impression, Tipp kept the scoreboard ticking over.
At the long whistle, grown men and women and ungrown men and women make their way onto the pitch to greet their heroes. In many ways its better than the Derry victory last year. If I had Michael Bourke’s number, I’d ring him to declare Kingspan Breffni Park the official home ground of the Tipp Football Team. (although I suspect if Michael saw it was me ringing he would not answer)
A text from Lorrha, a village that never reared a fool, declares these boys as “a bunch of heroes”.
As I leave the ground a WhatsApp from Sydney says “H’on The Boys”.
“Any chance you’ll come home for next week” was my reply.