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'We are going there for the win. There is no point saying otherwise because that is why you play. You play to win'


Tipperary’s Colin O’Riordan, named EirGrid U-21 Footballer of the Year, is looking forward to the clash with Kerry

Tipperary’s Colin O’Riordan, named EirGrid U-21 Footballer of the Year, is looking forward to the clash with Kerry


Tipperary’s Colin O’Riordan, named EirGrid U-21 Footballer of the Year, is looking forward to the clash with Kerry

Another day, another award for a Tipperary footballer.

Following on from Steven O'Brien's Footballer of the Month gong on Thursday, Colin O'Riordan is on hand to collect the EirGrid U21 footballer of the year. These are heady times for Tipperary football but as they grow, so too do the levels of expectation.

Along with a handful of others, O'Riordan puts his unblemished record against Kerry on the line on Sunday. Right through his underage career, O'Riordan has never came out of the wrong side of a championship encounter against the Kingdom. Tipperary footballers have rarely been in such a position going into a game with Kerry.

"I suppose it is massive but then again there is probably only five from our age group likely to be starting, so you have 10 lads who have never beaten them either," O'Riordan offers.

"So their mind-set is a lot different to ours. So I suppose we are trying to impose our mindset on them and show them that belief so that we don't fear them."

But things haven't always come easy to them.

Last year, Cork picked their pocket when the game looked harder to lose. This year, O'Riordan and Co were pipped in the All-Ireland U21 final, a game they led at half-time.

It was also a match that ended in controversy with allegations of sledging. For the JK Brackens man, the only regret is the result.

"There was a lot that went on about sledging and not letting the manager in the dressing room but it's the GAA, you get on with it.

"It's hard to swallow, you have nightmares over the match, but you don't really have nightmares over what was said to you or anything.

"It's part and parcel of the game. Nasty stuff is said and maybe it's going too far, not just Tyrone but other counties as well.

"I'm sure we're not completely innocent as well and every county would admit that. I'm not bitter anyway, we had a good year up to the final and were two points up at half-time. It's our own fault we didn't win it."

There's nowhere to go now except take out one of Munster's big two at senior level.

O'Riordan declared himself fully fit to face the Kingdom in Semple Stadium on Sunday, despite being forced off late in the win over Waterford, sparking fears he had aggravated an old osteitis pubis injury that had kept him out for eight months.

However, he did a light training session last week and expected to take a full part at last night's gathering. And even if he'll require a small procedure to clean up a hip problem at the end of the year, he's raring to go.

"I suppose when I came off (against Waterford) it was sore enough and I didn't really know what it was at first, I thought it was maybe back to the old injury for a while. But I think now it's fairly certain it'll be okay for Sunday."

The injury is sparked by overuse and there's no sign of his schedule slowing down. Along with O'Brien, he's currently in with the county's U21 hurlers. O'Riordan runs that championship date off without prompting.

They travel to the Gaelic Grounds to face Limerick on July 16, he explains, but the pair have largely concentrated on football.

And what else can they do? Since winning the All-Ireland last September, Kerry have reacquired Tommy Walsh and Paul Galvin while Colm 'Gooch' Cooper has recovered from injury too.

As well as that, the last times the teams met, O'Riordan can remember looking on as the Kingdom dismantled them two years ago to win by 17 points.

"I wasn't in the group now but I was watching it on the telly," he recalled. "I suppose (Tipp manager) Peter (Creedon) summed it up, embarrassing is the right word. We were looking on as young lads."

Traditionally, Kerry do just enough to get by in the early rounds of Munster. It's only 12 months since Clare led them at half-time in Ennis.

Tipperary meanwhile have been steadily improving, reaching the last 12 of the championship in two of the last three years.

"You can never take Kerry for granted, over the last few years they might not have been great in June but once it comes to championship day I am sure that they will be alright.

"They will be there or thereabouts when it comes down to it so it's just a case of respecting them.

"Just because they were not right in June over the last few years does not mean that they won't be right this year. They are the kind of team that can slice you open."

Although he says Kerry are "no angels", he doesn't expect much in the way of sledging this weekend. It will come down to football and, in that regard, there's no shaking his belief.

Tipperary haven't beaten Kerry in championship since 1928 and they haven't climbed to the summit of Munster since 1935 but the days of making up the numbers and morale victories are gone.

Tipp's youngsters know only winning when it comes to Kerry while the older heads are starting to warm to that way of thinking.

"We feel that we are able to put it up to them now. It is no more a case of travelling with hope more than expectation. We are going there for the win and there is no point saying otherwise because that is why you play. You play to win."

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