Tipp must rediscover killer instinct – Cummins
FOR a moment, Brendan Cummins was convinced he had got it terribly wrong.
It's 1994 since he was last on the outside looking in at the Tipperary set-up and even then he was on the fringes, having played league the previous winter.
But sitting as a spectator in Nowlan Park earlier this year as Tipp blazed into a 10-point lead against Kilkenny, a sense of dread came over him.
"It was the worst I've ever felt. I didn't know where to go. I could feel my heart thumping inside my chest," he said. "Tipp went 10 points up and I was thinking, 'what a mistake you're after making, these lads are flying and you're after walking away'.
"I could see things that could have been changed out on the pitch that would have stopped the comeback. That feeling of helplessness was something I hadn't had before."
When the sides met again in the league final, Cummins watched the game with Eddie Brennan from the RTE studios and found comfort in the distance.
As with the Nowlan Park outing, Tipp failed to see it out and they were prodded with familiar daggers regarding their mental fortitude – something Kieran McGeeney was drafted in to help combat.
Cummins, who was speaking at the launch of Damian Lawlor's new hurling book 'Fields of Fire', isn't aware of what effect the Armagh man has had, but he trusts the manager's judgment completely. Seeing out big games has been a problem, so something had to be done.
"I'd know Eamon O'Shea very well and he's not going to bring an influence into the team that he doesn't think is going to add a few inches.
"It's a challenge all the time for us in Tipp that, coming down the home straight, we finish the job.
"And we haven't really done it since 2010 in the All-Ireland final. Even in the games before that, we weren't finishing off the job.
"Eamon would have spoken all the time about playing with freedom and, when you are 10 minutes out, you don't tense up; you attack the finish line.
"The way they finished against Cork showed glimpses of that. The way they finished against Clare, it's building towards that. It's an issue for every team closing out games and it's no different in Tipp."
While the games have been hard to watch, what Cummins doesn't miss is the late-night training sessions and the time away from home.
"My training regime would have started back in November, December, running 15 to 20 miles a week, before we even started with Tipp.
"I trained twice a week in the gym at home. With the lads going to bed at 9.30, I would go to the gym at 9.45, which meant I didin't get to bed until 12.30.
"It's an hour in the gym and then I would have to eat to recover and then calm down. I couldn't do that six times a week anymore. That's why I pulled the plug."
Instead there's an interest in management tugging at his sleeve and agreeing to work with the Kerry goalkeepers is the first dip of a toe in those waters.
Naturally, the Tipperary job has a draw but that's well down the road.
This summer will be relatively empty. The evenings are longer and there is nowhere Tipperary need him to be.
"It does nag at you, but you do what you can while you're playing the game. Whether it's the manager giving you the boot, or you know yourself as an experienced player it's time to go – I knew it was time to go and that was it."