Tipp can win Sam Maguire before 2020 - O'Riordan
Published 30/04/2015 | 02:30
Colin O'Riordan is growing accustomed to life as a successful underage footballer and Saturday's EirGrid U-21 All-Ireland final represents the latest step in Tipperary's grand plan.
As a 15-year-old in 2011, O'Riordan was part of the Tipp side who claimed minor glory over Dublin to end a 77-year drought and this year he captained his county to the Munster U-21 title.
Having beaten much-fancied Cork and Dublin sides on their way to Saturday's decider, it perhaps shouldn't have come as much of a shock given the platform that they have created for themselves.
Tipperary are an emerging footballing force and O'Riordan is confident that they can carry their underage success through to senior level before 2020.
"I see no reason why we can't," O'Riordan enthused. "People think you're stupid when you say it. But people thought we were stupid when we said we'd win the All-Ireland in 2011. And people thought we were stupid when we said we'd be in talking about four steps to an U-21 final in 2015.
"Look, 2020 is five years away, that's five years more ground work that needs to be done but you never know what will happen in five years.
"You have to be beating teams in Munster; you have to be beating Cork and Kerry. There's no point saying you can lose to them by a point and get this moral victory that everyone's talking about.
"You have to be winning. If you want to win the All-Ireland, you have to beat the best to be the best. You have to be winning Munster. I think Tipperary could always take one scalp but previous teams couldn't sort of take two scalps.
"For us to win this, it'd a massive confidence-booster in the team anyway. It just shows the sort of progression that's been done at underage in Tipp football and long may it continue," he added.
Along with Stephen O'Brien, the pair have formed a powerhouse midfield duo which has been one of the most impressive at this level in recent years.
Such have been his impressive displays that O'Riordan had been linked with a move to the AFL and although that talk has been muted for now, the UCD student isn't ruling it out in the future.
He isn't going to be deterred by the fact that AFL scouts may be keeping a close eye on him at Parnell Park on Saturday as he has far more pressing issues on his mind.
"There's another 8,000 eyes looking at you, you're not going to be conscious of one lad watching you," he insisted.
"The Aussies won't be putting pressure on me to perform anyway, it's the other 8,000 eyes or 3,000 from Tipp maybe that'll be slating the back off you if you lose."
O'Riordan is adamant that the fear factor is now gone from the mindset of Tipperary footballers and why wouldn't it be?
2011's minor success is now a distant memory and Tyrone are the only team that stand in the way of Tipp claiming their first All-Ireland U-21 title and O'Riordan will do everything within his power to ensure that this team write their own history.
"Tyrone are a savage team. Their senior team playing Division 1 football and that's massive for any county," he said. "They have a tradition that certainly we don't have in football. They're genuine worthy favourites and it'll be a tough task.
"Before the Munster final we talked about being sick of being the third-best team in Munster. This team wants to be the best.
"The mentality is that we're not expected to win these games yet we're still winning them. I suppose we're trying to make a mark that we can compete with the best and beat the best.
"None of us fear the big teams and I suppose that's crucial when it comes to winning matches and finals like Saturday. If you don't fear anyone it's very easy to go out and express yourself."
To the general public at least, Tipperary is still considered to be a hurling county and although O'Riordan admitted that some of the locals constantly tell him to "give up the big ball", he knows that everyone in county will be behind them come Saturday.
"Look, when a team in your county is winning, everyone rallies around you," O'Riordan insisted.
"It doesn't matter if it's hurling, football, cricket, or whatever it is. People rally around a team and just want to see their county perform to the best of their ability.
"It's not about taking sides between hurling and football. This is about Tipperary. It's not about hurling and football, to be honest. This is about your county."