Rebels need to emulate Tipp's desire -- Tompkins
THE drive, energy and spirit displayed by Tipperary in the All-Ireland hurling final should serve as an example to Cork footballers of how to approach Sunday's football final.
That advice comes from Larry Tompkins, the last man to bring the Sam Maguire Cup back to Cork. That was 20 years ago and since then Cork have lost four finals (1993, '99, '07 and '09), leaving the county with a severe dose of the jitters.
"Down will try to play on that nervousness. They'll be coming to Croke Park with all their usual confidence and swagger and will be hoping that it gives them an added edge," said Tompkins.
"There's no doubt that there's a nervousness in Cork after what happened in recent years against Kerry at Croke Park, but the only way to deal with that is to take it on head-first and turn it into an advantage.
"Tipperary were up against the best team of all time in the hurling final but they didn't let that worry them -- Cork have got to be equally positive about how they go about their business."
Tompkins was a central figure in a Cork team that lost two All-Ireland finals in 1987 and '88 before winning the next two, a sequence which has raised hopes on Leeside that a broadly similar pattern is about to emerge.
"There's a difference, I suppose, in that we were unlucky to lose the '88 final. We felt we were the better team in both the draw and replay but just didn't put Meath away," said Tompkins.
"The Cork public were still very much behind us and saw us as a team that was improving, whereas the present group are under fierce pressure to convince people they will make the breakthrough.
"People were very disappointed in their All-Ireland final performance in 2007 and again last year so the pressure is really on them to deliver now."
However, Tompkins is backing them to do that, even if their form has been patchy. "They haven't been able to maintain their form on a consistent basis. That has to be a worry. Even in the semi-final, you'd have to wonder if it was a case of Dublin losing their way at the end rather than Cork doing anything special," he said.
"There's great potential in this Cork team but they've got to deliver on it. While they might not have been all that impressive on the journey, the important thing is that they've got to their final destination. The whole perception of them will change if they turn in a really good performance on Sunday."
The Cork squad are acutely aware that even their own supporters will remain sceptical until such time as an All-Ireland title is secured. Remarkably, Cork haven't lost to anybody other than Kerry in the championship since being stunned by Fermanagh in the 2004 qualifiers but that's poor consolation when viewed against the level of success enjoyed by their neighbours.
While Cork have unpleasant memories of their jousts with Kerry at Croke Park, Tompkins believes that the experienced gained in recent seasons will be a significant factor on Sunday.
"There's no comparison between Cork and Down in terms of experience. All the Cork lads have been here before and while they might have lost, they still know what it's all about," he said.
"Besides, the hurt they felt in 2007 and last year should be a help. Cork haven't played anywhere near as well as they can so far this year but I'd be hopeful that they will deliver on Sunday."
Cork manager Conor Counihan has come in for local criticism over squad selection, in particular for not using James Masters prior to the Nemo Rangers man's departure from the panel earlier in the year.
Tompkins won't involve himself in that particulate debate but has no doubt that Counihan is doing a tough job to the very best of his ability.
"He's got Cork to two All-Ireland finals and a semi-final in three seasons. He's his own man and brings the many qualities to the manager's job that he used to bring as a player," said Tompkins.
Despite the doubts about Cork's form, Tompkins believes that they will have too much for Down, especially if they get a good start.
"If Cork put their game together, I think it will be too much for Down," he said. "You'd have to be impressed with the way Down beat Kerry and Kildare but they're in new territory now. I know Down teams have a fantastic record in finals but Cork will ignore all that. The past won't come into it."