O'Brien believes young guns can match absent Quinlivan's firepower
By John Harrington
Tipperary footballer, Steven O’Brien, says other players will have to step up to the mark to replace the void left by star forward Michael Quinlivan’s absence for the 2022 season.
Quinlivan has withdrawn from the panel due to work commitments and O’Brien admits he’ll be a huge loss.
“I've been playing with Michael since 2011 when we were minor and personally I'd see it as a massive loss, he's a huge character within the group,” said O’Brien today at the announcement of FBD Insurance’s title sponsorship of Semple Stadium.
“As everyone knows, he's a well-esteemed forward, clinical finisher so it's a big void that's going to have to be filled.
“I've no doubt in the lads coming through that can step up to the mark. The likes of Seanie O'Connor took great strides last year and he went very well with the club and the Tipp U20s last year. I know there's plenty of lads chomping at the bit to get it.
“Michael has his own reasons for stepping away through work commitments and stuff like that which is totally understandable. He's given everything he had to Tipp football over the last number of years and I know he'll still support us in everything we do. He'll be a massive loss both on the pitch and off the pitch. That's up to new lads to come in and take the opportunity.”
Tipperary will also be without Pádraic Looram (work commitments) and Emmet Moloney (travelling) for 2022, while the retirement of the long-serving Brian Fox is another blow for the Premier County.
“Brian Fox will go down as one of the best footballers Tipperary ever produced,” says O’Brien. “He was Mr Consistency. While Tipp football wasn't always consistent, Brian Fox was.
“Day-in, day-out he gave his all. He was probably in the top three performers in every game he played. He was the type of player who wore his heart on his sleeve, he trained as he'd play so he was always making those around him better. When I first came into the panel I'd have obviously known of him and you'd wonder what they're like. He was brilliant to young players.
“He always wanted young players to thrive within the group and he often pushed them to be better. When he seen any bit of potential he might challenge them a small bit but always in a good, encouraging way.
“Everything he did on the pitch was unbelievable for Tipp but the stuff he'd do in the background for players and among the group, he was top class. He'll be sorely missed from the group. I'd imagine he's a manager's dream really, he works so hard for the team and he gives his all. We thought we might have got another year out of him but he has also decided to step away. He owes Tipperary football nothing. He was a top servant.”
O’Brien himself is unlikely to feature for Tipperary in the opening rounds of the League. A lengthy club campaign with Ballina only ended last weekend with defeat to Gneeveguilla in the AIB Munster Club Junior Football Championship, and his priority now is to address a long-standing groin injury.
“I've been nursing a groin injury for the past while, since the middle of last season,” he says.
“I missed some of the League and Championship last year so I think I need to get a reassessment of the injury and take it from there. For now I'll be regrouping with them but I probably won't be on the pitch for the next couple of weeks, I'd imagine.
“It will depend on what the physios and doctors say and depends what's needed for the injury. It was a small tear in an adductor so it's just to see where that's at now. I've been rehabbing and minding it as best I could, but it's hard to get it fully right when you've a consistent run of games.”
O’Brien hopes a successful Division 4 League campaign can provide the launchpad for a run to another Munster Final for the 2020 provincial champions.
They’re on the same side of the draw as Waterford, Clare, and Limerick, so opportunity knocks for all four counties.
“Absolutely,” says O’Brien. “That's what you always want to get to. When you see the draw with Cork and Kerry on one side, no doubt Tipp, Limerick, Clare and Waterford all see that as an opportunity.
“They'd be lying if they said they didn't. It was the same for us in 2020, that's the way the draw worked. I know it definitely gave us that real motivation that there was something really there we could get after and get into a Munster final.
“Sure when you get into a final it's a two horse race on the day, it could go either way. I've no doubt Tipperary and the other three teams are eyeing up that route to a Munster final.”