Saturday 3 December 2016

Blow for Tipperary boss Liam Kearns as midfielder Steven O'Brien opts for hurling

Published 08/12/2015 | 02:30

Tipperary footballer Stephen O'Brien
Tipperary footballer Stephen O'Brien

Tipperary football has been dealt another blow with the news that midfielder Steven O'Brien has thrown his lot in with the county's hurlers for 2016.

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Ballina clubman O'Brien has been a central character in Tipperary's football revival in recent years, helping them to their 2011 All-Ireland minor title, while he also lined out for the Tipp team that reached this year's All-Ireland U-21 final.

And while he admits it was a difficult decision, he hasn't ruled out a return to football further down the line.

"I've committed to the hurlers for the coming year," O'Brien explained. "It was a tough decision alright, trying to sum up what I've done with football and then getting the call off Michael Ryan - it's awful tough, especially coming from Tipp. I thought it was just an opportunity that I couldn't really turn down.

"I thought that if I didn't I could be looking back in a couple of years time wondering 'what if…' if I didn't take it. Unfortunately, I'm after stepping away from the football and committing to the hurlers. Who knows? I could review it halfway through the year, but I just said I'd give it a crack anyway."

O'Brien also believes he couldn't have played both codes at inter-county level.

"If you want to take them both seriously, you have to have the hurley in your hand every day and you have to have the football in your hand every day and it's very difficult to have the two.

"I suppose, for lads that are more established in the hurling it might be easier for them to balance the football as well. For someone like myself, I need every day of the week with the hurley to get the eye back in."

O'Brien's defection is another blow for Tipp football which broke new ground with Clonmel Commercials' success in the Munster club championship.

Colin O'Riordan has already opted for life in the AFL with Sydney Swans, meaning that the county's first-choice midfield pairing of 2015 won't be available to new manager Liam Kearns. Seamus Kennedy has also opted to play for Michael Ryan's hurlers in 2015 but O'Brien believes the footballers will be competitive.

"The talent is there that they are well able to come in and do a job, definitely. It is a loss, a bit of a blip. Especially with George (Hannigan) out injured - he'll be out for the start of the league.

"It gives lads an opportunity. With the minors getting to an All-Ireland final, with the U-21s getting to an All-Ireland final, definitely Tipp football is in a great place."

Irish Independent

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