Croke Park next 'stepping stone' for Tipp - Quinlivan
Tipperary's sharpshooter tells Colm Keys that they didn't do themselves justice in Kerry thrashing and are ready to make amends
Published 23/07/2016 | 02:30
Every time Dublin's all conquering football team land a blow, Michael Quinlivan can't help thinking that their own stock in Tipperary nudges up just another little fraction, as if there's an index link to the 2011 All-Ireland minor final that they snatched at the death in quite dramatic circumstances.
Dublin's implosion, Tipperary's opportunism, however you like to describe it, it provided some impetus to a movement which had already begun the previous year with a Munster U-21 title.
The Dublin names from that day are like a stellar cast now - Kilkenny, McCaffrey, Small, Byrne, Mannion, Lowndes, Costello. They've reaped a significant harvest from that particular vintage.
"We probably didn't look at it so much at the time but maybe when people look at it now they see understand how big a victory it was," reflected Quinlivan.
"There's a Footballer of the Year in there, maybe a future Footballer of the Year too."
The global journey that some of their own squad has taken probably reflects the talent they had in abundance, too.
Naturally for a Tipperary team, there was some subsidence to hurling and John McGrath and Seamus Kennedy have really made their mark under Michael Ryan this year. Stephen O'Brien awaits his chance.
Colin O'Riordan has signed a professional contract with AFL side Sydney Swans, while two others who featured in that final, match- winner Colman Kennedy and Greg Henry, are on soccer scholarships to La Salle University in Philadelphia.
It leaves just goalkeeper Evan Comerford, Bill Maher, Ian Fahey and Quinlivan on the current squad though two more of the 2011 group are on an extended squad.
Quinlivan himself left a burgeoning soccer career with Clonmel Town behind to stay on the path of Gaelic football.
His ball-winning strength in the full-forward line, balance kicking off both feet and strong nerve - exemplified by the penalty into the Hill 16 goal that he nailed in that 2011 minor final - have always marked him out as a special talent.
"We've lost a few but if you got four off every minor team, you'd be doing okay," he suggested.
That they can lose so many to a landmark team and still find themselves in the last 12 of the All-Ireland Championship for the third time in five years is testament to the progress of Tipperary football.
On both previous occasions they fell short - to Down (2012) and Galway (2014) - denying them a first All-Ireland quarter-final appearance.
This time, they really are a team on a mission, desperate to break that ceiling to the coveted last eight.
"It's definitely the next step. We need to consistently make a Munster final, we've been consistently making last 16, last 12 but making the Munster final regularly and getting to All-Ireland quarter-finals, that has to be in our reach," said Quinlivan.
The ambition comes at a time when Tipperary hurling looks to be gathering strong pace again.
Munster titles at both minor and senior level on the same day followed by the dethroning of the All-Ireland U-21 champions Limerick four days later represented quite a week, even by Premier standards.
Quinlivan feels though that the footballers have been able to fight their corner successfully, despite the losses of Kennedy and O'Brien especially.
Tiperary, he says, can be rightly recognised as a dual county.
"It's very good for the county that we are competing on both fronts. There are not that many counties out there doing it and if we can really push on in the football. We think at the moment that we are a genuine dual county."
The lingering thought is that they took a step back in the Munster final against Kerry.
"The fact that we didn't do ourselves justice is the thing that would eat away at you a small bit. We played to Kerry's game plan a bit too much.
"Their forwards worked extremely hard, especially their full-forward line.
"It looked like we were running into a brick wall at times out there. They set up more defensively than what would be the traditional Kerry way maybe.
"We struggled a small bit to get it into our inside forwards. There were definitely things that were good about the performance. I'm not sure how many teams would kick two goals against Kerry and maybe open them up for one or two more.
"That's obviously a positive, especially building on three goals against Cork. And we should have had more that day."
That victory against Cork is something, he says that they must become more accustomed to.
Quinlivan was part of the Gaelic Players Association team that came up with a document for inter-county fixture reform last year and there is some irony that he finds himself in the role of protagonist in one of the results that emboldens those who believe the system is fine as it is.
"There is still room for change. There have been a couple of results this year but I'd beg to differ that the current system is working well.
"They're isolated incidents if you look back over the five or six years. A lot more that can brought out of the football championship with a small bit of change.
"I said that the time while the GPA proposal wasn't a silver bullet, if it facilitated discussion among knowledgeable GAA people that would be a good result. Coming out of Congress last year, that seems to be what has happened.
"While changing it will always be a big step, until it is changed it will be always be talked about."
Yet winning a Munster title remains his primary goal at this stage of his career.
Can it happen in his time? "Yes, I'm convinced it will. But we need to reach an All-Ireland quarter-final now as another stepping stone."