‘A Tipperary team going in as the underdogs is a dangerous animal’

AFTER A HEAVY defeat in the Munster final to Cork, the Tipperary U21 hurlers welcomed a break to reassess and regroup.

Galway’s Fintan Burke and Tipp’s Mark Kehoe.

Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

A 13-point loss on the big stage in Páirc Uí Chaoimh. Not exactly ideal.

“After a loss like that you really have to regroup and see where you are,” Tipperary forward Mark Kehoe says.

“It was easier because everyone was in the same mindset. We’re going to learn from our mistakes now from the last day, we don’t want to be flat going into this game. I think we’re just dying to give a real big performance against Galway.”

The evening itself, that loss to the Rebels must be reflected upon though.

“It was a bit demoralising,” he continues. “13 points was a bit of an embarrassment now to be honest.

“After 20 minutes, they were racing ahead of us. That doesn’t usually happen. We just felt like we let Tipperary supporters down — the genuine Tipperary supporters who have followed us all the way through, they know we’re not about that.

“Knowing how we performed against Limerick and then how we performed against Cork, we kind of just let Cork hurl away and didn’t put a hand on them. If it was anyone you’d be thick with yourself.

In action against Cork.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“The fact that it was a Munster final, we really let the Tipperary supporters down and we really want to put a fight in now the next day and show the spirit. We’re all just dying to get out the next day and put that performance away.

“We all know we’re only as good as our last game. That’s in the back of our mind as well and we really just want to get at Galway now.”

The Tribesmen are coming into the game from a slightly different perspective, full of confidence with the Leinster crown under their belt after a late, late win over Wexford.

That’s no harm though, Kehoe smiles, as he thinks of tonight’s Bord Gáis Energy GAA Hurling U21 All-Ireland championship semi-final (throw-in 7.30pm, Gaelic Grounds, live on TG4).

“Galway are going to be hot favourites after winning the Leinster, after beating Wexford. We’re kind of coming in under the radar. Maybe that’s a good thing, we’ll look at that and look to implement our presence around the field.

That 2016 All-Ireland minor final.

Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“I think a Tipperary team going in as the underdogs is a dangerous animal. It’s not that it usually happens. We’re going to relish it now.”
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They’re a young team and most of them have hurled together right up through the ranks so there’s a good sense of unity there.

“We’re used to being in big days with each other,” Kehoe adds. “We trust each other, we all know what we’re about. The trust is there so we just have to go out on the pitch now and trust each other.”

They’ve been through it all together; winning and losing, good days and bad days. The backbone of the team were there in 2016 as they lifted the All-Ireland minor title in Croke Park.

Kehoe’s also a talented footballer. He had success with both Clonmel and Rockwell in schools’ football, and he helped the Tipperary minor team to an All-Ireland final.

“I love hurling and it kind of just took over then,” he explains.

“When you’re winning, it’s easier to throw your hand at something. We play senior football with the club and it’s still massive but the focus is Tipp hurling at the moment anyway.”

At the Bord Gáis Energy U21 All-Ireland semi-final media day.

Source: Brendan Moran/SPORTSFILE

He’s in around the senior panel, but aspires to reach that mark on a more regular basis. To make that full breakthrough — and the sooner the better.

“When you’re in training with the likes of Seamie Callanan, Paudie Maher and Brendan Maher, you see the standard they set and one day you want to get to that standard,” he says.

“You want to get to it as soon as possible. You see they reap the rewards. They do it day in, day out. Maybe some of us, we do it one day but maybe not the next day. We see what it takes to become a top-quality player.We definitely look up to those older players, and want to be in their footsteps.

“Hopefully the management can put trust in us. We have to show them at U21 obviously first and we’ll all just stay training and put our heads down and hopefully once we all get our bodies right, mentally right and we’re mentally tough enough for senior, maybe the shot will come.”

But that’s to the back of his mind at the minute. All focus is on Galway tonight, and the game of hurling between his side and a coveted All-Ireland final spot against Cork.

Redemption.

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