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'Well, if we have to win it ugly, then we're set up to win it ugly' - former Tipp keeper

Brendan Cummins is relishing the reunion of two old rivals as his county go head-to-head with Kilkenny for Liam MacCarthy glory.

Brendan Cummins at the unveiling of Ballygowan Activ+ as the new Official Fitness Partner of the GAA/GPA yesterday.
Brendan Cummins at the unveiling of Ballygowan Activ+ as the new Official Fitness Partner of the GAA/GPA yesterday.
Image: Sam Barnes/SPORTSFILE

“IT’S STARTING TO build up,” former Tipperary goalkeeper Brendan Cummins smiles when he’s asked how things are back home.

It’s All-Ireland hurling final week. Tipperary-Kilkenny, Liam Sheedy-Brian Cody, what’s not to love?

The mood down that way is heightening and heightening, that’s for sure.

Two days to go.

“It’s gas actually because before Wexford played Tipperary in the semi-final, I left the county and it didn’t have a major amount of flags out or that, to pass into Gorey and it was like it was an All-Ireland final going to be played such was the contrast.

“In Tipp I think we take it a little bit in our stride but certainly all the colours are out now. I know in the Cummins household all the bunting is out and all that. It is starting to get going now. 

Especially the way Tipperary beat Wexford and the heart that was shown has infused extra passion into Tipperary supporters we probably haven’t seen for 12 months.

Premier fans are “demanding in that your standards are always to win an All-Ireland or nothing,” he adds, so the fashion in how Liam Sheedy’s men closed out that semi-final while a man down will be pleasing with another final just around the corner.

They’re definitely on the right track.

“That’s just the way it is, and that’s just the nature of Tipperary hurling,” he nods. “You’ve seen success growing up and your job is to continue the success.

We haven’t had as much as we probably would have wanted, but certainly we’re on the cusp of something again, please God.

“Winning the game with a man down is big,” he adds on the circumstances of that last four battle, “but the other question mark was the strength and depth of the panel.

“You had Ger Browne coming in, Jake Morris, Mark Kehoe, [Willie] Connors; all scoring. Again, it was another confidence boost. There’s no one saying they’re going to do the same thing again the next day but they’re certainly in a better position to perform confidence-wise.

“No one questions the ability of any player that goes out on Sunday, but have they the confidence and belief to do the job better than the guy they’re marking? You’d certainly hope that the Tipperary bench at this stage are infused with unbelievable confidence after the way that day went. They got Tipp over the line, there’s no doubt about that.”

Brendan Cummins celebrates Celebrating the 2010 win. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

2010 All-Ireland winner Cummins agrees that a big performance was needed that day after the Munster final loss and unconvincing win over Laois, and feels Tipperary did the “job of an inter-county team” in “peaking when you’re threatened the most”.

When push came to shove, they performed when all the chips were down and passed that test.

But it’s all eyes on Sunday now, and the kind of a game we’ll get in Croke Park. He stresses the importance of the Tipperary half-back line and the role of Brian Hogan between the posts, but looking at the overall picture, Cummins is relishing an intense battle.

The narrative going around is that Tipp can’t win an arm wrestle,” he says. “I’d go the other way and say, ‘Well, if we have to win it ugly, then we’re set up to win it ugly’.

“The experience of [Seamus] Callanan, Brendan Maher, Paudie [Maher], all these lads… they’ve been in both worlds now. They’ve lost games where there’s been an arm wrestle and they’ll have learned.

“I don’t think from the starters going to the end, if Tipp go into an arm wrestle that they’ll win. Certainly it’s not the preferred way we’d like to go about it.

“But within the game I think the lads will be able to have better game management and take us out of the traps that we’ve fallen into before. That’s what I’m looking to see on Sunday: can we change in the middle of the game from this killing each-other battle to spraying the ball a bit wider?

“Those nuances will be the difference between winning and losing.”

He highlights Jake Morris’ impact, with Tipperary also in the All-Ireland U20 final against Cork on Saturday, August 24, following their good run. 

The Nenagh Eire Óg man’s goal drove them over the line in the Munster final and then he pounced from the bench to score a point against Davy Fitzgerald’s Leinster champions five days later.

“It gives younger guys a huge lift, and it certainly gives the county a bit of a go,” Cummins adds. “Beating Wexford, the flagship team, everyone watches that like, and that’s been the real thing that’s give Tipperary supporters that bit of belief going up to play Kilkenny.”

His own memories from through the years are enjoyable to look back on. Well, some of them.

Talking about 2010 and stopping the five-in-a-row has been really enjoyable. But talking about the penalty in ‘09 hasn’t been as enjoyable,” he ponders. “It has been good, it gets the juices going.

“You’re playing Kilkenny, there’s going to be 82,000 people, it’s raw and angry and all those things. It will be a traditional final in the way the game will be played, but again the nuances of sitting back with defenders to protect, all that new order we’ll say.

“The old traditions infused with the new style of hurling of being more tactically aware of what you’re trying to do is going to be really intriguing.

“Either way it’ll be about who can turn who upside down, who can get to somebody before they put their eyes up to put it into the shooters, it’s still the basics of what they’re trying to do out there.”

A few last words go to the hugely successful Hurling for Cancer Research match the other night, and his Poc Fada exploits a few weeks back before the conversation winds down.

“Everything adds into it,” he concludes. “This is like Christmas morning for Tipperary and Kilkenny, for hurling people. It’s everything.”

Two days to go.

Upated 9.04am – last edit of draft did not publish correctly.

Brendan Cummins was at hand as Ballygowan Activ+ powered up as the new Official Fitness Partner of GAA/GPA

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Emma Duffy

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