Thursday 22 March 2018

We had a better team last year, but now we are more resilient - Sweeney

Sweeney has been one of Tipp’s key players in their march to the last four. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile
Sweeney has been one of Tipp’s key players in their march to the last four. Photo: Seb Daly/Sportsfile

Jackie Cahill

Tipperary's progression to a first All-Ireland SFC semi-final in 81 years is the stuff of dreams, but forward star Conor Sweeney reckons they had a better team in 2015.

The lethal corner-forward reckons that the Premier County's new-found resilience is what has made them a force to be reckoned with under Liam Kearns.

On Sunday at Croke Park, Mayo stand in Tipp's path as they aim to reach a first final since 1920.

After reaching the last 12 twice during Peter Creedon's spell in charge, Tipp finally cracked the code this summer and then went one better by storming past Galway in the quarter-finals - despite the high-profile departures that appeared to have weakened the squad earlier in the season.

Sweeney has been one of Tipp's key players in their march to the last four. He scored a goal in that historic Munster semi-final victory over Cork, five points from play, including the winner, in the qualifier win against Derry and 2-2 in the Galway game.

When asked if Tipp had a better team last year and about the circumstances behind this remarkable run, the Ballyporeen man (26) said: "I think it's a mixture of different circumstances because we've lost three or four quality players.

"So are we a better team? Probably not than this time last year because we had better players probably last year. We've just gotten so close and I think it's a never-say-die attitude.

"When Derry got that late goal, if that was a previous team we would have lost that game. And we'd have lost the Cork game as well.

"We had to win the games twice and three times and it's just that will to keep going to the very end."

The spotlight is firmly on Tipperary but Sweeney insists that the players can't become preoccupied with sideshows, warning that another slow start will cost them dear against Mayo.

He explained: "The last day we were in uncharted territory as well and it took us 15 minutes to really get settled in - we were getting to terms with the crowd and the arena and stuff.

"If it takes us 15 minutes the next day we won't be in the game.

"We're getting a lot of attention from the media the last couple of weeks and that's new to us as well."

Sweeney believes that Tipp's chastening experience against Kerry in the Munster final has stood them in good stead through the back door, reflecting: "I know we got a bit of a hiding in Killarney but we learned so much from that game.

"We were a bit naive going down into it and we were a bit taken aback by how negative they (Kerry) were defensively as well.

"We're definitely better equipped now for the big occasion."

Sweeney accepts that Tipp face a "massive" task against a Mayo team that swatted away Ulster champions Tyrone.

He added: "I was very impressed with them. They've got talent from the full-back line all the way up and even on the bench.

"We've been watching them the last few years, they're a top four side, they're competing in the All-Ireland series year in, year out.

"The task at hand is massive but look we're looking forward to."

And Sweeney warned: "The Munster final day was a tough day for us all - we totally underperformed and as a result we got beaten by ten points.

"That's the reality of it that if you don't show up against the top sides, they'll steamroll you."

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