'This is the top of the world. It's amazing'
Brendan Cummins tells Donnchadh Boyle how Tipp fulfiled their childhood dreams
PROBABLY the last occasion Brendan Cummins needed this much time to walk across a room was back when he was in nappies.
The lobby in the Burlington Hotel yesterday morning was thronged with plenty of bleary eyes and hundreds of well-wishers. Cummins had a moment for them all; after waiting nine years for a second All-Ireland title, he was determined to enjoy it.
At 3am on Monday morning he found his bed. Some made it until dawn and he reckoned a few hadn't been to bed at all. Cummins blamed 'old age' for his 'early' departure.
At 35, he is the panel's elder statesman and his future has been a talking point at the end of each of the last few seasons. But above the din in the hotel reception, the Ballybacon-Grange man gave a clear indication he was ready to carry on for another campaign, as long as his services were required.
"I'll sit down and maybe wait for a phone call later on in the year from Liam Sheedy, or whoever is in charge of the squad, and take it from there. That's all you can do, I suppose, given the level we're talking about," he said.
"I love the game. I love playing it and I love playing with these fellas because of the energy and enthusiasm they have, their carefree spirit.
"It's your childhood dream to play for Tipperary and I'm no different."
There are four other survivors from the 2001 side -- Paul and Eoin Kelly, Lar Corbett and John O'Brien -- and all are expected to return in 2011.
Sheedy wouldn't be drawn on his future or that of his back-room team, preferring instead to just bask in the moment.
"This time last year we were sinking, we were really disappointed after losing the final. This year makes it all worthwhile," he said.
"I have huge belief in this group, huge trust in this family. I just knew the lads and I knew by the looks on their faces in that losing dressing-room last year.
"My aim all year was to win the semi-final because I felt if we won the semi-final, no one would stop us in the final. Kilkenny are a super team, but I knew if the guys got back into that arena after what happened last year they wouldn't leave it go."
Team captain Eoin Kelly was the prodigious young talent in the 2001 squad and he admitted that particular success largely passed him by.
"What is extra special is the hurt of having lost the last eight years through various Munster championships," said the Mullinahone man. "It makes it that bit extra special. When we won in 2001 we were only young fellas and we didn't truly understand it. It is great to see all the Tipperary supporters here. It is ecstasy."
Tipperary have eight of Sunday's squad in action in the U-21 decider on Saturday against Galway. With so many Liam MacCarthy Cup winners in their squad, they'll be expected to win a second national title in six days. However, there will be no complacency, as the lessons of this season in the wake of the defeat to Cork have been well learned.
"I think the Cork game this year was enough for this bunch of players to ever again have to worry about being lackadaisical or complacent and not performing on the day," Cummins explained.
"There will be ups and downs, fellas won't play well and will have to come off, but to have a full 15 not performing and five coming in not performing isn't acceptable.
"To be fair, we managed our way through that crisis and it was a good lesson. A lot of the young fellas have experience. Noel McGrath is only 19, and he's already lost an All-Ireland and won one. It's gas, Brendan Maher is only 21. These fellas are nearly household names and they're just out of diapers. It's mad."
Interview over, Cummins heads back into the throng and is immediately accosted by a young autograph hunter, who has been plucking up the courage to ask for a scribble for more than 10 minutes. He gets his moment and there's one more smiling face in the room.
Cummins eventually makes his way to a waiting bus with a few other panel members for a trip to a children's hospital. Amid all the back-slapping and congratulations, there is time for humility and reflection.
"It's the top of the world. Our journey has been extra special, I suppose, after being hammered down below by Cork -- really put to the sword -- and after being beaten last year in the final," added Cummins.
"We looked dead and buried in June this year. Then the qualifiers were kind to us, and suddenly then we won a game against Galway that we shouldn't have won.
"Next thing you know, you're in an All-Ireland final and you've won it. It's been amazing. Amazing."