Tuesday 28 February 2017

Cummins shuns the hand of history in Premier glory quest

Colm Keys

Colm Keys

The last time a team had an unprecedented five All-Ireland titles in-a-row chance snatched away from them, seven-year-old Brendan Cummins sat on his father's lap in the upper deck of the Hogan Stand and "cried like the rain" at what unfolded in front of him.

Cummins is a Manchester United fanatic. Even on the warmest of championship days the United shirt is one of two he'll don beneath his Tipperary jersey. It's a habit he dares not to break.

But for one of the finest hurling goalkeepers of this or any generation, Kerry footballers equalled United in his affections back then in 1982, so a trip to Croke Park with his dad to watch history unfold was not something he was going to pass up.

"I was in the Upper Hogan Stand sitting on my dad's lap and I cried like the rain when Kerry were beaten, I'll never forget it. I can remember looking at it when Seamus Darby pushed him in the back and he stuck it in the roof of the net," recalled Cummins.

"Kerry were the team I loved, they were the Manchester United. They were flamboyant and had all the guys moving, scoring and were winning everything, why wouldn't a young fella be attracted to that, and then Offaly went and ruined it? I think I am scarred for life after it!"

Detaching themselves from thoughts of the five-in-a-row or thoughts of stopping the five-in-a-row is as important for Tipperary as it is for Kilkenny, Cummins argued. "For the time being we are just thinking about performing on the day."

"Ask any of the Kilkenny players, they have won four-in-a-row and if they are beaten on Sunday everyone will be talking about Tipp rather than Kilkenny. That is what they understand better than any other team."

At 35 and with 61 championship appearances for Tipperary, Cummins has seen the game of hurling evolve, nowhere more so than in the strategy of distributing puck-outs. There was a time when the policy was to "hoof it" but now he has come to embrace more measured ways.

"I had known for years that it was one part of my game that I really needed to work on. But since Liam (Sheedy), Eamon (O'Shea) and Mick (Ryan) came in we have done an awful lot of work on it."

Cummins feels Tipperary never "opened (their) minds" to placed puck-outs until Sheedy arrived.

"For years I wanted to try and do it but in fairness when Liam and the lads came in they said this is one aspect of the game that we are going to build on and they challenge me every night in training to try and get better at it."

Some day in the future he'll reflect on his record-breaking number of appearances for his county but right now there's a tinge of concern at the imbalance that exists.

"Whenever I pack up I suppose I'll say that was satisfying alright but a statistic that would concern me is I have played 61 times for Tipp and I only have one All-Ireland medal. That's the bottom line and that is disappointing. All-Ireland medals in Tipperary are the only currency and unfortunately I have only one."

Irish Independent

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