Friday 30 September 2016

'Going down to Limerick is not easy so you want lads to be psyched up from the off' - Eoin Kelly

Tipperary legend Eoin Kelly happy to leave playing days behind him but backs former team-mates to stop the county's losing run against neighbours

Published 19/06/2015 | 02:30

Former All-Ireland winning Tipperary captain Eoin Kelly is pictured at the Bord Gáis Energy Legends Tour at Croke Park SPORTSFILE
Former All-Ireland winning Tipperary captain Eoin Kelly is pictured at the Bord Gáis Energy Legends Tour at Croke Park SPORTSFILE

He has been told that Sunday will be the hardest day. Travelling to a championship game and not being part of the set-up will be the moment when it hits Eoin Kelly hardest. The moment when the final realisation dawns that after 15 years he's on the outside looking in now.

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But even if his heart misses it, his head is at peace. Logic tells him it was time to go and time to do other things.

"I don't miss it because, and I've said it before, it's all about playing, I found it hard there, sitting and looking at it. The week up to it, you probably would miss it, seeing it advertised on TV and that, you would miss it, there's no point saying you don't. Going to the match on Sunday is probably the thing you'll miss the most and I'll see what that's like.

"But it's common sense - I wasn't playing. We played Limerick the last two years and I saw seven or eight or 10 minutes. We played Kilkenny three times last year between league and two All-Irelands and I saw maybe six or seven minutes. I mean, your time's up and on you go.

"You see the young fellas now and the way they're moving, it's all pace."

Complacent

He'll travel down to Limerick on Sunday morning with some sense of what's at stake for Tipperary. Not since 1948 have Tipp lost three championship games in consecutive years to Limerick, while defeat here would see Eamon O'Shea's term as Tipperary manager come to an end without a single win in the Munster Championship.

Kelly was part of the set-up for their last two defeats. Little things told him they weren't right on the day. Looking back now, he sees Tipp were guilty of taking Limerick for granted.

"Tipp in the last two years, especially in 2013, were a small bit complacent going down to be honest."

There's no chance of that this time around. That they were in Carton House last weekend - something usually reserved for later in the championship, while Eamon O'Shea's bullish comments have given Kelly further confidence.

"I know if I was involved in the team, I'd be saying you don't want to lose three times in a row to the one team. You'd be using that at this stage to motivate your team, you'd be whispering it somewhere.

"Going down to Limerick is not easy so you want lads psyched up from the off. We weren't in Limerick two years ago and last year we didn't finish the game out.

"I always enjoyed Limerick because they are bit like Kilkenny because they hurl very physical. You knew you were after being in a championship game with them. I like that side of it. It's fair enough saying they are physical but now they have ball players.

"They have hurlers that can score and are good players. The positive for Limerick going into this game is that three or four of their forwards were very poor the last day. They didn't play up to standard so if I was TJ Ryan I'd be happy enough going in."

That the home side have already played is a plus but for Kelly it comes down to who can impose their game-plan early on. Tipp will need space to play while Limerick will look to congest things.

"Tipp like space and movement and Limerick will want it congested so that's the battle. If Seamus Callanan is not seeing a lot of ball inside, get him into the game at centre-forward because he can play equally as well there.

"Tipp have to create space, and if they are not getting them inside they have to go outside and they have the players to score from outside. 'Bubbles' (John O'Dwyer) and Callanan, they would score as easy from 70 yards as they would from 21 yards. If it's not working after ten minutes, they'll need to free those guys up to shoot and score.

"You saw against Waterford, Tipp started well and then Waterford's game-plan kicked in, which was a lot of bodies at the back and Tipp got it hard to create scores. That's the challenge. We couldn't counteract that either here last year (in the All-Ireland final) when Kilkenny were back."

The winners of Sunday's clash advance to a Munster final with Waterford. It's ten years now since the Munster champions went on to win the All-Ireland.

The gap between the provincial decider and the All-Ireland semi-final seems to negatively impact their chances in the All-Ireland race. Still, there's no way teams will be looking beyond the Munster championship.

"I guarantee you now that Tipperary want that Munster title more so than anything because it's looked upon as a prestigious championship. The Munster final is one of the biggest days in the year and you want to be involved in that. But there's only the puck of a ball between the teams in Munster.

"You had three Munster teams in the All-Ireland semi-finals last year and three Munster teams in the league semi-finals this year.

"It's just so even but to be honest with you, the Munster Championship needed to get back to being this competitive to have any chance in the All-Ireland."

Kelly has done his bit and as the third highest scorer in championship, his place in history is assured.

It's someone else's war now and he's happy to let them fight it. He's never seen skill levels like that of John 'Bubbles' O'Dwyer. Tipp will win on Sunday, he reckons, and after that who knows. He'd love to still be following them in September.

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