Lambert hoping to bring another All-Ireland to Tipperary
By Michael Devlin
The party from Tipperary’s senior and U-20 hurling triumphs last month may be winding down, but the blue and gold bunting isn’t being packed away just yet.
This Sunday, supporters from the Premier County will descend on Croke Park again in search of All-Ireland glory as Tipperary take on Meath in the Intermediate Ladies Football final.
“It’ll be super, but you know we can’t look past Sunday either,” says Tipp captain Samantha Lambert with a degree of caution. “Three out of three would be nice. The county is on a high, the flags are still flying, it’s something special. There’s a lot of people behind us now, it would be great to get another cup home to the Premier County.”
It’s a far cry from the scenario this time 12 months ago. Tipperary came into the 2018 Senior Munster semi-final with Cork at the start of June on the back of an unbeaten intermediate campaign the year before and a successful Division Two challenge in spring, and only fell to the eventual All-Ireland runners-up by five points.
From there though a bottom place finish in their All-Ireland round-robin group and a defeat to Waterford plunged them into a relegation play-off with Cavan, where they proceeded to throw away a nine-point lead to suffer demotion back down to ladies’ football’s middle tier.
Lambert says she and her team-mates are relishing the opportunity this weekend to climb back into senior ladies football. “Yeah it’s great to get back here. This time last year we were deflated after getting relegated to intermediate again. It’s where we want to be I suppose, in an intermediate All-Ireland final and getting that opportunity to get back up to senior ranks again."
Up a league but down a championship for this season, Tipperary maintained their Division One status with two wins out of seven, including a stunning comeback victory over Cork at Páirc Uí Rinn back in February. It continues to provide a huge source of confidence for the squad according to Lambert, as well as giving Tipperay the vindication that they can more than hold their own with the very best teams in the country.
“We got huge belief from that game. That’s the first time in my career, and a lot of the girls’ careers, that we beat any Cork team. Even from underage, we were always getting hammered. Beating them down in Páirc Uí Rinn was extra special, they had a great crowd there.
“We were delighted with that win and it really kind of drove us on for the rest of the league. We took a lot of heart from it as in the position we were in at halftime, we were down by quite a bit and we came back to beat a team that have been winning All-Irelands for the last ten years.
“We were lucky enough to get into Division One, so playing that level of football, we were competing well in those games. We were taking it game by game, but I suppose in the back of our minds because we were competing so well with the senior teams, we felt like we did deserve to be up playing senior again.”
Tipperary and Meath have already crossed paths in this year’s championship, with Tipp racking up the goals in a 6-10 to 1-14 win at Ardfinnan in July. Two goals within the opening 45 seconds had them well on their way, and they hit the net three more times by half-time to put the result beyond doubt. However, the difference between the teams was far closer than what the one-sided scoreline suggests according to Lambert.
“We’ve definitely have parked that to one side. We got off to a dream start that day, but we have to focus that we mightn’t get off to the same start on Sunday. We got those two goals but we drew with them for the rest of the game, they matched us for scores.
"They are an excellent side, a lot of great players. We know we have a huge battle ahead of us here on Sunday. Meath won’t be any pushovers, we’re hoping that we put in a performance and drive it on and get back up to playing senior level football.”