Wednesday 22 November 2017

Fox happy to see home fires burn brighter for Tipperary

Tipperary's Brian Fox. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Tipperary's Brian Fox. Photo: Brendan Moran/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

With progress comes interest, and with interest comes greater footfall through the turnstiles of the grounds that they are playing in.

Tipperary captain Brian Fox has noticed quite an upswing in support for the county's footballers through the spring as they realised the first, and maybe even the biggest of their 2017 goals, gaining promotion to Division 2.

Ahead of their Munster semi-final with Cork in Páirc Uí Rinn tomorrow, Fox estimates that the core following may have doubled since their advance to an All-Ireland semi-final against Mayo last August.

"It's a big thing in the media that we don't have a huge following. But even this year I can definitely see a difference in the amount of people that turn up to our league games," he said.

"Whereas before it might be 200 or 300 and you'd nearly know every single person, now it might be 500 or 600, which people don't realise is a huge increase.

"You appreciate it and it makes a difference to the players on the pitch. There's no point saying the crowd doesn't give you a lift, supporters have a huge role to play in any game."

Fox has been made team captain in what is now his tenth year with the county side. A nephew of Tipp hurling legend Pat, he played underage hurling for the county with Seamus Callanan, Noel McGrath, Patrick 'Bonner' Maher and Pádraic Maher. But school shaped his path to football.

"I went to St Ailbe's in Tipp town and there was more football there than hurling there," he explained.

"On the back of that I got on the minors and I just wanted to play for Tipperary, hurling or football, I didn't care."

Gaining promotion was possibly the biggest target they had in mind for 2017 when they set out their goals. "We said for us maybe bigger than championship, was to get promoted to Division 2 and playing at a high standard more consistently, that it would probably be better progress for our team.

"But now that we're in a championship, it's one game to get to a Munster final so our objective is to get back there."

Fox accepts progress was made in 2016 but part of him, and indeed his colleagues, feel they left something behind against Mayo in Croke Park.

"In the immediate aftermath we were bitterly disappointed," he recalled. "Not just with the result but some aspects of how we played, it wasn't how we wanted to play and we genuinely thought we had a great chance going up there.

"Momentum is so powerful, you don't realise your own limitations when you're on that upward curve. But I suppose looking back on it, reflecting on the whole year, you just see the step up we made."

Absentees

In a recurring theme, Tipperary have a lengthy list of absentees to deal with. From last year's starting team, Peter Acheson (now working in Dubai), the suspended Evan Comerford, and the injured Philip Austin and Ciaran McDonald are out while the promising Jack Kennedy, Willie Connors, Kevin and Ian Fahey are also unavailable. Paddy Codd is a doubt because of a hamstring injury while Colm O'Shaughnessy will only be fit enough to take his place on the bench.

But Fox still feels they have the strength in depth to cope and with Michael Quinlivan and Conor Sweeney maintaining their form in the inside line. "Their scoring record is actually phenomenal," said Fox.

"What Conor has scored this year is crazy and even Mikey, I think it was 6-6 he'd scored before the league final. They're big threats, they've got pace, they can kick off left and right, they've everything forwards need."

Irish Independent

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