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Fitzell out to crack Croker code for Tipp

WHEN Dylan Fitzell steps out on the Croke Park turf tomorrow afternoon, it will all seem so familiar.

Same dressing-rooms, same tunnel, same pitch and even the same jerseys.

Some of the faces may be the same, and while the code has changed and they'll be sporting helmets and carrying hurleys, Fitzell and the other Tipperary minors are just hoping that the result remains unchanged from a year ago when they shocked Dublin to win the All-Ireland MFC crown.

Their plans of retaining that title were scuppered by a shock defeat to Mayo in the All-Ireland quarter-finals, so the focus switched entirely to hurling and the results have been impressive.

Tipp swept past Galway in last month's semi-final and are odds-on to defeat the Dubs, some of whom are themselves dual stars preparing for a football final in two weeks' time.

The Premier county have had a host of players operating on both fronts this summer and manager William Maher's job was to pick them up after their football disappointment and get them on the road again.

"There was a lot of expectation on the football with so many there from last year after winning the All-Ireland," Fitzell recalls.

"There was 10 of us there (on the hurling panel) that were on the football as well. The feeling after losing against Mayo was not great, so we said to ourselves, 'the feeling of losing can't happen again because it's not a nice feeling'.

"We pulled together, ploughed ahead and trained hard for a couple of weeks then. The result (against Galway) paid off in the finish."

Lessons have been learned, experience has been key and Fitzell reckons that Tipp are ready for the challenge.

"The worst thing you can do, as I said to the rest of the team, is to come out and look straight up at the crowd. Keep the head down. It's a massive stadium and when you walk out you get a bit of a shock. That was one thing that caught me the first day," the Cashel native reveals.

"The Tipp backs worked very well as a unit in the semi-final. They defended well. We're a team that tries to score as many goals as we can. It didn't really click for us and we missed a lot of chances early in the match.

important

"They got 1-1 to no score up and we came back 1-2 to 1-1. From there, it was important just to keep our noses in front, to keep going."

That they did, and in some style too, and if they can replicate that performance then they will add a hurling All-Ireland to the football one they earned last year.

But then Tipperary's dual stars will face a choice, one Fitzell -- who will be over age for minor despite still being at school -- is not ready to commit to.

"There's going to be a decision made next year because you can't do football, hurling and the Leaving Cert. I'll sit down and have a chat with the father and maybe a selector or two and see which one we'll go with, but I haven't any decisions made at this stage," he explains.

Irish Independent