Preview: Allianz FL D3 Final - Tipperary v Louth
Saturday April 8
Allianz Football League Division Three Final
Tipperary v Louth, Croke Park, 5pm, Live on TG4
By Cian O'Connell
A fortnight ago when Louth secured promotion at Semple Stadium, Tipperary left Thurles knowing only victory would do against Armagh at the Athletic Grounds.
Michael Quinlivan’s last gasp goal proved to be enough to earn Tipperary Division Two status for next year with Saturday’s Croke Park clash with Louth offering an interesting climax to a highly competitive group.
Division Three remains a demanding environment in which to compete so Louth and Tipperary have gleaned considerable satisfaction from the fact they have emerged as the top teams.
Louth were Division Four victors 12 months ago so Colin Kelly’s shrewd work is being rewarded with an exciting and hungry collection of footballers.
Tipperary’s All Ireland SFC Semi-Final appearance was a testament to Liam Kearns’ clever planning combined with those who invested hugely in the underage ranks for the past decade.
“Division One is probably a step up, everyone would admit that, but maybe Two and Three on any given day are fairly similar, Championship results would back it up,” Quinlivan says about how Tipperary have fared this year.
“That would be the only difference. In the Championship you can gear up for one game, that is maybe how an upset can come, but the League will normally tell you the true results.”
The talented Tipperary attacker highlights Louth’s ability to ‘move the ball’ swiftly too ahead of this weekend’s decider. “The only thing about the League is because you are playing week in, week out the strongest panel or team will normally win your League.
“Louth were the best team in our League, they had a bad day out against Armagh, it probably didn't suit them playing on a heavy pitch in Drogheda. When they came down to Thurles on a quick sod and they showed us how quick they can move the ball.”
Williams is thrilled to have been a central figure in Louth’s commendable revival. A match with a similarly upwardly mobile Tipperary is another good test before the Leinster Championship for Louth.
“Now we are promoted you are talking about playing in the top half of the country if you look at it logically in that way.
“It is all based on progress, we got promoted two years in a row, we are moving up to Division Two now. You will be playing against better teams and you want to see how well you can push yourself.
“We want to measure our team against these other teams we will be playing. It is a great building block for the Championship. You could be playing a Division Four or a Division One team in the Championship so it is great to gauge where you are at, to try to push on from there.”
When Louth won at Semple Stadium Tipperary were left reflecting on several squandered chances with Colin Kelly’s team finishing strongly.
Derek Maguire willingness to attack from deep remains a strong part of Louth’s game, while Eoin O’Connor is also in decent form.
Conor Sweeney and Quinlivan are prolific Tipperary attackers, while Bill Maher, Robbie Kiely, and Jimmy Feehan are also solid performers.
Lifting a national trophy at Croke Park will provide a significant boost for whoever prevails.
TIPPERARY: Evan Comerford; Alan Campbell, Paddy Codd, Willie Connors; Bill Maher, Robbie Kiely, Shane O'Connell; Liam Casey, Jack Kennedy; Josh Keane, Kevin O'Halloran, Brian Fox; Conor Sweeney, Michael Quinlivan, Emmet Moloney.
LOUTH: Craig Lynch; Padraig Rath, Patrick Reilly, Anthony Williams; Derek Maguire, John Bingham, James Stewart; Tommy Durnin, Andy McDonnell; Declan Byrne, Pauric Smith, Bevan Duffy; Adrian Reid, Eoin O'Connor, Ryan Burns.