Brendan Cummins: 'Tipp must be patient with goalkeepers'
By John Harrington
Former Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins says the county’s supporters will have to show patience with the players battling to claim the hurling team’s number one jersey next year.
Darren Gleeson’s retirement means a trio of inexperienced young goalkeepers – Daragh Mooney, Brian Hogan, and Paul Maher – are all vying to follow in his and Cummins’ foot-steps.
And Cummins has warned supporters not to expect any of them to be overnight successes in the role.
“There's an element of patience needed,” said Cummins, who plays in the AIB Munster Club Junior Hurling Final for Ballybacon-Grange against Waterford's Ardmore on Sunday.
“I think people forgot that when I went into the goals first for Tipperary, in my first championship match I was an absolute disaster against Waterford.
“It was car-crash stuff. Balls under my legs, fell over, wearing track-suit bottoms, it was just horrific stuff!
“I remember I was in a taxi going up to football training afterwards with Tipp and the conversation was about the hurling game the day before.
“PJ Savage was a selector at the time and he said to the taxi-man, 'What did you think of the game yesterday?' And the taxi-man said, 'Tipp are going to win an All-Ireland but they'll have to get rid of that goalie first to do it'.
“That always sticks in my memory. So, patience is going to be key for goalkeepers. The goalie who plays for Tipperary next year is going to make mistakes the same way that I made mistakes in my last year playing after 20 years of experience.
“That's just what happens. But it's important we don't jump on him. And if they get changed, if whatever goalie who starts the League is swapped out after two games, it's not a case they're not good, it's just someone else's opportunity.
“And whoever is put in for the first round of the championship, we have to make sure that no matter what happens them we have to make sure we're behind them.
“It takes a year or two to actually get comfortable in the position. Look at Darren Gleeson, in his first six months with Tipp after I left he was going very poorly.
“But he won an All-Star at the end of the year. It just takes a little while to get comfortable with it, but once you do you're away for slates.
“People stuck with Darren because they knew what he was capable of so I think we need to stick with whatever goalie gets the nod this year and get behind them because they will need our support because it's a tough gig.
“There’s a responsibility too on whoever gets the nod to make sure they're doing all they can and making sure that obviously they're up for the job because it's vital.”
As well as settling on a first-choice goalkeeper, Cummins believes Tipperary need an influx of players who will ensure competition for places in the starting XV is stronger than it was this year.
“There are probably only three or four players needed for the goalkeeper position and the starting outfield spots, but we definitely need five or six more added to the panel,” said Cummins.
“The reason we won All-Irelands at the time was because numbers 17 to 30 was chomping at the bit every single night.
“I remember Conor O'Brien coming in training, he was a sub, and he was as angry as anybody because he wanted his place. You knew looking at him when he was out training.
“We trained at half seven but he'd be on the pitch at five to seven beating balls on his own up and down the pitch like a crazy person.
“You just need he wanted to play. And when you felt comfortable in your skin that you have your position, you got uncomfortable looking at the likes of his behaviour, and that's what you need.
“'Fez' (Seamus) Hennessy was the same way. All those fellas who came on in the 2010 All-Ireland Final and made a difference, they were going mental for six months before that because they weren't getting a game and that shook all the rest of us.
“That's why I think the challenge is to get numbers 17 to 30 going berserk. Because I think from 1 to 17 we're okay. But that 17 to 30, they win you All-Irelands."
Cummins is hopeful that Tipperary will play with more freedom next year because they won’t be burdened by the pressure of trying to successfully defend the Liam MacCarthy Cup.
“There's still a core of lads who have won the All-Ireland there, but they need to get back enjoying their hurling and get more lads in around them and I think Mick (Ryan) will do that," said Cummins.
“We don't wear the pressure of All-Ireland champions that well, unfortunately. I gave two years trying to do it and we couldn't for pretty much the same kind of reasons that happened the lads this year, the enjoyment gets suck out of it.
“Your own expectations get so big that you weigh yourself down and then in matches it looks like you're tired.
“That's because I think internally you've played the match 100 times before you actually got to it. And when you got to it then you're mentally exhausted and couldn't produce.
“Mick now will be able to say in the dressing-room, 'look, lads, you're not All-Ireland champions anymore, Galway are the ones to shoot at now, so let's prove to everybody that we're able to do it again'.
“There's a weight off the group now.”