Promotion proves Tipp run last year was no fluke - Quinlivan
There was no presentation of the match ball after Michael Quinlivan's first hat-trick in senior county football last weekend, but the satisfaction of knowing that Tipperary were going up was more than enough for the Clonmel Commercials man.
Because now that they are promoted, he can admit there was a pressure on the Premier men to deliver this spring. Last summer's dazzling run, which saw them smash a couple of Tipp football's glass ceilings, needed to be followed up with some other tangible marker of progress.
"I think the pressure was more external than anything," he said, at GAA's launch of Lá na gClubanna which takes place on May 6-7.
"Our form was terribly patchy throughout the league, we have played in fits and starts in most of our games but the problem is there is more of a spotlight on us.
"Whereas last year we were able to go through our league and have no one looking at you, now with the Division 3 results we are probably the first team you look at to see how we got on.
"And there might have been a few surprising results for people who didn't really understand what level we were playing at."
And he believes the promotion secured last Sunday has confirmed that they are a team on the up.
"Maybe in some people's eyes (they needed to be promoted to validate last year's success). There would have been a small couple of question marks maybe that (Tipp got) a bit of luck and caught people on the hop last year, that sort of thing.
"What we do in championship will be what we are graded on anyway. I don't think any one will set their sights on what we did last year because that is a very tough thing to do again. But maybe to go somewhere close to it would be a way of validating what happened last year."
After working off a shallow squad in their run to the last four in 2016, Quinlivan, who picked up his first All-Star last year, reckons Tipp have a much stronger panel this time around as players have been attracted to the cause by their success.
"Look we are a more attractive proposition to go playing with now, I'm not going to lie about that. Yeah, look there were a lot of footballers maybe out there who didn't know was it worth committing to a year of championship. But now lads are buzzing to go and play with footballers in the same way they would with the hurlers."
Quinlivan hit 3-1 in their promotion shoot-out with Armagh in the Athletic Grounds last Sunday, with his third goal the last meaningful act of the game. The whole move, from Evan Comerford's kick-out to Quinlivan's shot finding the corner of the net, took just six seconds.
It wasn't the first time Quinlivan has pulled off such heroics. He lashed a last-minute winner to the net to hand Commercials, and Tipperary football, a first Munster Club SFC title in 2015.
"It's complete luck," he mused. "I don't know, it's as much about the lads out the field trusting to try and get you on the ball too. Lightning maybe did strike twice I don't think there is any real knack to it at all, it's more about being lucky and being in the right place in the right time.
"It's my first one (hat-trick) so it's pretty nice but look, it's gone now. It will be all out the window if we don't go and perform at the weekend and put a cup with it as well."
Louth stand in their way in the Division 3 decider on Saturday in Croke Park. The Wee County men have gone through quite the transformation of late. In their first season under Colm Kelly in 2015, Louth went to Thurles for a qualifier and lost by an eye-watering 23 points. But last month they completed a remarkable turnaround when they took both league points from Semple Stadium.
"It was a strange game. Just things didn't go right for them, things went right for us. It probably wasn't a fair reflection of where the two teams were at that time. They've obviously come on leaps and bounds since then, they are the stand-out performers of the whole four leagues I'd say."
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