Monday 23 April 2018

Maher switch from hurlers 'turning point' for Tipp football - Campbell

Moyle Rovers defender Alan Campbell Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Moyle Rovers defender Alan Campbell Photo by Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Making progress against the tide of departures since last year has been a recurring theme for the Tipperary footballers this season.

Depending on the count, it ranges from 11 of the 21 used in last year's opening Munster championship game against Waterford to 13 who have become unavailable for one reason or another - retirement, injury, AFL, America, work and of course hurling.

The switch in codes of Seamus Kennedy and Steven O'Brien has perhaps been in sharpest focus given their talent for football. We've heard all about that.

But what about the player they gained from the hurlers this year, in full-back Alan Campbell's eyes "perhaps a turning point of the season"?

Bill Maher's decision to cross back over Tipperary's great divide was a timely shot in the arm after a Division 3 league campaign that fell narrowly short of promotion.

The addition of wing-back Maher - one of six players trimmed from Michael Ryan's hurling squad after their league campaign, and so eye-catching in the footballers' All-Ireland quarter-final against Galway, has restored some of the balance.

"His impact has been huge - that hasn't been said enough," said Moyle Rovers defender Campbell (above) as he sought to identify points of transformation in a remarkable season.

"He'd be friendly with all the lads and sometimes it only takes something small to get things going. There's a few lads gone, but a few came in as well and you can't underestimate what we got in."

Campbell said he understands the motives behind Kennedy and O'Brien's departures and the ambition of Colin O'Riordan to strive for a professional career in sport.

It leads to an inevitable question as to whether Tipperary will ever be able to fully tap into the potential and turn it into silverware.

"Why not? There's Munster U-21 medals there, there's a good few lads who have won Munsters and beaten the likes of Kerry," said Campbell.

"Last year the U-21s lost to Tyrone in an All-Ireland final; we have had minor teams contesting All-Ireland finals and winning them, so there's plenty of medals around.

"It's tough in every county. There's pulling factors whether it be rugby or soccer or hurling in our case. There's plenty of the hurlers that are very good footballers and it would be great to have them but we have to try and fight on two fronts."

The fight for hearts and minds in their own county continues, but will enough Tipperary heads be turned on the back of that win over Galway? Will the Croke Park factor be the trigger to mobilise in bigger numbers?

"It's difficult," Campbell conceded. "It's an expensive day out. If they were to be at the hurling game on Sunday, then us against Mayo this weekend, that's three times to Dublin in a few weeks. Traditionally there's a lot more success with the hurling so we can see why."

Winning a big game in Croke Park was uncharted territory for a group with such a connection to their small band of supporters, and that led to some of the most memorable scenes of the summer as players jumped into the Hogan Stand to celebrate with family.

"We didn't know how to deal with it because we are used to the fans coming on to the field," said Campbell. "After every game we'd be surrounded by usual few hundred we have at our games and we'd know all of them so we didn't know what to do when they didn't come on to the field. It was a good feeling."

Irish Independent

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