Liam Kearns: 'I'm delighted for the players'
By John Harrington
Tipperary manager Liam Kearns was understandably delighted with his team’s Allianz Football League Division 3 Final victory over Louth this evening.
The Premier County hit some wonderful scores and in winning this title have proven they possess the will and wherewithal to build on last year’s All-Ireland semi-final appearance.
“It's been a tough campaign, very tough,” said Kearns. “We've lost two huge players in Peter Acheson and Ciaran McDonald who would be inspirational players and leaders for us and they didn't kick a ball in this campaign.
“To bring in a lot of young fellas...I think six of our championship team were missing there today for various reasons. It's very pleasing to get the job done and I suppose winning above in Armagh was really the catalyst for it. That's when they showed their character and they fought so hard.
“Yeah, I was delighted with today because you'd have to worry about their legs. Five games in five weeks is tough going. That's an energy sapping pitch. I think it was 3-19 we kicked, that's fair scoring in anybody's language.
“I'm delighted for the players, they put in a huge effort. It was important we progressed things after last year, the All-Ireland semi-final last year, people were looking to see could we go any further than that.
“So it was important that we backed it up and I think we backed it up today. It's only preparation for the championship at the end of the day and we've got a huge game on the 11th of June against Cork or Waterford and we hope to be a lot better than we were today for that game.”
The loss of the inspirational Peter Acheson to emigration remains a blow to Tipperary’s championship ambitions, but there’s no doubt either that in general Kearns is dealing from a stronger hand this year than he did in 2016.
Substitutes Liam McGrath and Liam Boland both scored points after coming on against Louth to illustrate Tipperary’s greater strength in depth.
“We have, we brought 17 new players into the panel. I was just saying to lose Peter Acheson and Ciaran McDonald, we had to bring a lot in," said Kearns.
“17 is actually too many but we brought them in and we started poorly enough in the McGrath Cup so it's pleasing, the whole campaign has been pleasing so far as we've gotten the job done and we've blooded a lot of players.
“Liam Boland came on again and scored, he scored in Armagh as well, we brought on Alan Moloney, he did the same in Armagh as well and George Hannigan, we're trying to get him back too.
“There's a lot of improvement in us, Mikey Quinlivan is getting plaudits but Mikey's only just getting fit at this stage, he came back very late (middle of January), he was enjoying life there for a while so we have improvement in us I think.
“There's quite a few lads out there that will improve, Bill Maher is just about coming back to his form, he played very, very well today but he has a lot of improvement in him.
“Shane O'Connell, Jimmy Feehan and Philip Austin weren't there. Look, we're going in the right direction and that's pleasing.”
Louth manager Colin Kelly had no complaints about the final result. His team started very well, but when Tipperary then hit them for an unbroken scoring burst of 1-5 in the first-half they never seemed to fully recover.
“When they had that spell they really went to town,” said Kelly. “But that's what you get when you come up against quality like that with players like Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney, O'Halloran and these guys, they're top-class players and they punished us when they got the opportunity.
“Listen, we scored 19 points and I thought we scored really attractive football at times, it's just we were caught out at the back a couple of times.
“The last goal I wouldn't worry about really. We were pushing hard and it was probably hard for the lads to be beaten by nine points. I don't think that was justified. But without a shadow of a doubt Tipperary were better today than Louth.”