IN THE WAKE of the beating they suffered in early July in Páirc Uí Chaoimh, Liam Cahill could take solace in the fact there was a safety net for his Tipperary U21 team.
Tipperary U21 hurling manager Liam Cahill.
Source: Ramsey Cardy/SPORTSFILE
They were the beneficiaries of the new system ushered in this season that provided a path back into contention for the defeated provincial finalists.
Tipperary have rebounded after that Munster decider and they will renew acquaintances with Cork in Sunday’s All-Ireland showdown.
Cahill was grateful for the second chance as manager. It’s just he wouldn’t have minded being afforded the same luxury in his own U21 playing days.
“It’s unique, it’s the first time ever you get a second chance at U21 level. I would have loved to have one when I was playing U21.
“We were beaten by Cork in the ’97 Munster final, last minute by a Timmy McCarthy goal. It happened in Thurles, we were out the gap we thought at that particular stage.
“But then that Cork team went on with Joe Deane, Sean Óg Ó hAilpín, Wayne Sherlock, Diarmuid O’Sullivan, Donal Óg Cusack, sure it was basically the Cork senior team that went on to win All-Irelands after.
“Little did we know at the time, that was going to be the case. It was a real springboard for them, they really got wind in their sails after that Munster championship and went on to win the All-Ireland the same year, I think they did two back-to-back ’97 and ’98. It just proves the importance of the U21 grade and how beneficial it is to future development of hurlers.”
Timmy McCarthy in action for Cork in the 1998 All-Ireland U21 hurling final.
Source: Patrick Bolger/INPHO
Assembling young talents and working to help them progress, has been a theme of Cahill’s management career.
He first took charge of the Tipperary minor side in 2014, a shaky start followed by a wave of success.
“The appointment was done fairly quick and I didn’t have my house in order for my first 12 months involved with the Tipp minors,” recalls Cahill.
“Over that winter period we got the chance to put the right people in the right places in support roles with me. Thankfully it helped to make a couple of competitive teams over the remainder of the three years that I had after that.”
2015 and 2016 brought Munster titles and All-Ireland final appearances. Tipperary lost the first year to Galway, then triumphed on the second occasion in Croke Park against Limerick. His minor tenure concluded with a loss in an epic Munster semi-final replay to Cork last summer.
He made the step up this season to take the U21 managerial reins, his coaching sidekick Mikey Bevans still working closely with him.
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“Mikey and myself played minor and U21 together with Tipp. Mikey had a massive club career with Toomevara, winning eight county senior hurling medals, captaining them twice to Dan Breen. He was part of that very strong and tenacious Toomevara team.
Mikey Bevans lifts the trophy after the 2008 Tipperary senior hurling final.
Source: Lorraine O’Sullivan/INPHO
“We go back a long way and we get on well together as friends as well and that’s a help. Minor was the first time we coached together.
“We kind of met by accident one day, he was coaching a club side and I was doing a little bit with a Kilkenny club side as well. We just teamed up and got chatting and the rest is history as they say.”
With the Tipperary senior side exiting in mid-June, there had been a sharper focus in the county on the fortunes of the U21 outfit.
It’s been a season of fluctuating fortunes, taking down a star-studded Limerick side, the Munster final setback and then a strong response against Galway.
Jake Morris celebrates Tipperary’s victory over Galway.
Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
Just over seven weeks after falling 13 points adrift of Cork in their province, the task for Tipperary is to bridge that gap.
“You’re the last team standing in the county, people want to follow a Tipperary team,” says Cahill.
“Obviously the priority is our senior team number one, that’s the barometer you’re judged off all the time but in fairness to the Tipperary supporters they’ve got behind us great over the last couple of weeks and months.
“We’re going in as raging underdogs which is unique in a Tipperary situation in an All-Ireland final and we’re going to try to tap into that and get as much energy and encouragement.
“We will have to hurl out of our skins to win this All-Ireland and we’re well aware of that. We’re coming in, in a lovely position. I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence saying differently.
“It’s just a case of us bringing to the table now what we’re able to bring. If we do that and if Cork beat us, fair play to them.”
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