TIPPERARY football manager, Liam Kearns, has jumped to Cork’s defence, ahead of the Munster championship next weekend.
Tipp host Limerick at Semple Stadium on Saturday evening, for a 7pm start, with Cork awaiting the winners at Páirc Uí Rinn on June 1. Both Cork and Tipp were relegated from Division 2, with the Rebels paying for poor results early on.
“People are having a go at Cork, but I still believe Cork are a decent team and should have stayed in Division 2. I don’t know what happened at the start of the league campaign.
“To me, they were getting strong near the end,” he said.
Tipp also bemoaned too many near-misses in their games, especially on home turf, when they lost to both Cork and Clare.
“I think we lost the Cork game in the 10 minutes into the second-half, when we were taken for five points in-a-row. We then went after it and were camped on their goal line near the end.
“Cork were better than us, but they were at full-strength.
“We had the Clare game won twice, but left it go, mainly because we didn’t have enough experienced guys on the pitch, which counts for a lot. We lost to Kildare by a point and should have won that.
“Certainly, we should have won the Fermanagh game. There was a refereeing decision that cost us the points there.”
Kearns admitted that teams getting a run on them is proving costly and needs to be addressed ahead of the summer’s action.
“It’s a concern for us. We probably play too much football and are too honest.
“We’re going to have to address that, because we have suffered over the last number of years. We play to the end and don’t resort to cynical tactics.
“We were lauded for that when getting to the All-Ireland semi-final three years ago and it didn’t hold us back.
“Since then, there is probably a case to be made to wise up a bit, in that regard.”
Tipp’s well-documented, high injury count was a contributory factor in their return to Division 3 in 2020, and while those players have all recovered, they’re at different levels, in terms of fitness and game-time.
“We’re on the back foot, trying to make up time with our injured players. We have them all back, it’s just a question of what kind of shape they’re in.
“The issue for us is to get them fit. We’ve Limerick at the weekend and, hopefully, a Munster semi-final on June 1. We just have to take it round by round.
“Limerick is the first game and we can’t afford to look beyond that.
“I don’t believe relegation has affected the mood in the camp, even though it was a step backwards and I think we’ve stagnated in the last two championships.
“We recognised, from the start, that we were down players, 12 at one stage, when we played Armagh. Despite that, we were still competitive in every match.
“Obviously, it’s disappointing to lose our Division 2 status. The feel-good factor may start to slip, though I still have a lot of faith in the players.
“There is a very strong panel there if I can get them to play to their best. The likes of Robbie Kiely is only back training three weeks and he has a long way to go.
“Bill Maher is coming off a nine-month Achilles tendon injury. They are two key men for us.
“Alan Quinlivan only came back for the last two league games. Josh Keane is one who had no league time at all. We found a couple of players alright, but the only problem there was that we were asking too much of them.
“Darren Brennan was thrown in centre-back, not having played at senior level before. He did well, but you’d prefer to ease him into it and not ask to play him in every game.
“It’s given us a big boost to have all the players back again. After the club championships, we played a couple of challenge matches.”