Kearns praises Premier's 'nerve' in sinking of Breffni men
Tipperary 2-15 Cavan 0-18 SFC Round 2B Qualifier
Six points down with a patched-up side fresh out of ideas, Tipperary should have just accepted their fate and contented themselves with the memories of last summer.
Croke Park and that eventful passage to the All-Ireland semi-finals must have seemed a million miles away at Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday, staring at a 0-12 to 0-6 half-time deficit against a team that was flying, hitting 11 points from play.
"We were in trouble in a number of areas and could have made changes early but the fellas we wanted to bring on didn't have that sort of time in them," said Tipp manager Liam Kearns.
"So we had to hold our nerve and wait."
The miraculous sight of All-Star forward Michael Quinlivan gingerly jogging on after 46 minutes, just four weeks after suffering a bad ankle injury against Cork, undoubtedly stirred the troops, who still trailed 0-13 to 0-10.
But it was Philip Austin, in his first appearance in four months after a groin injury, who made the greatest impact. His intervention, allied to an improvement in a midfield sector which had been bossed by Gearoid McKiernan in the first half, changed the momentum.
He kicked the equaliser and a minute later won a penalty which Conor Sweeney dispatched brilliantly in the 56th minute.
Suddenly Tipp were the side playing with all the conviction and Cavan, unable to cope with their running game, collapsed.
They had hit five points in a row between the 19th and 27th minute but struggled to win any ball in the third quarter and once Tipp sensed the game was still there, they seized the initiative.
A great Tipp move saw Austin and Sweeney combine to tee up Robbie Kiely for a killer second goal eight minutes from time.
"This year we've played in fits and starts but when you're backed into a corner, there's nothing you can do except come out swinging," said Quinlivan. "That second half was somewhere near back to our best that we knew was in us from last year."
Quinlivan's ankle was heavily strapped, and he admitted: "Playing 30 minutes probably wasn't the plan here today - maybe 15".
"I've shown now I can do that, so hopefully I might be able for a little bit more time the next day."
Cavan boss Mattie McGleenan said: "I thought it was some of the best football we have played all year in the first half but in the first 15 minutes of the second half we couldn't win a ball and ultimately that was our undoing."
Scorers - Tipperary: C Sweeney 1-5 (1-0 pen, 5fs), R Kiely 1-1, J Kennedy 0-3 (2fs), K O'Halloran 0-2 (1f), B Fox, P Austin, M Quinlivan, D Foley 0-1 each. Cavan: G McKiernan 0-3 (1f), M Reilly, T Corr, C O'Reilly, N McDermott (2fs), S Johnston (1f) 0-2 each, C Mackey, C Moynagh, D McVeety, P Faulkner, T Galligan 0-1 each.
Tipperary - C Kenrick 7; C O'Shaughnessy 7, A Campbell 7, E Moloney 7; B Maher 6, R Kiely 8, J Feehan 7; L Casey 7, G Hannigan 6; J Keane 6, L Boland 6, B Fox 7; C Sweeney 8, K O'Halloran 7, J Kennedy 7. Subs - D Foley 6 for Boland (23), P Austin 8 for O'Shaughnessy (HT), M Quinlivan 6 for Hannigan (46), L McGrath NR for O'Halloran (68), K Bergin NR for Maher (70).
Cavan - R Galligan 6; P Faulkner 6, K Clarke 7, J McLoughlin 6; J McEnroe 6, N Murray 6, M Reilly 7; G McKiernan 8, T Corr 7; C Mackey 7, C Brady 6; C O'Reilly 7, C Moynagh 7, L Buchanan 6, D McVeety 6. Subs: N McDermott 6 for Brady (12), R Connolly 6 for Buchanan (HT), T Galligan 6 for Corr (46), J Dillon 6 for McDermott (57), S Johnston 6 for O'Reilly (60), N Clerkin 6 for McVeety (BC, 65).
Ref - F Kelly (Longford).