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Uncle Pat's hurling exploits, the Tipp football-hurling debate and a landmark Cork win

The Tipperary captain is in his 10th season with the squad.

pjimage (2) Tipp football captain Brian Fox and All-Ireland hurling winner Pat Fox. Source: INPHO

IN LATE APRIL they held a night to toast Pat Fox at his pub in Cashel.

His feats with Tipperary hurling were recalled, a career that yielded two All-Ireland’s, three All-Stars and the 1991 Hurler of the Year award.

They stuck on the screen the episode of Fox getting the Laochra Gael treatment, a preview for the West Tipperary locals the night before it was broadcast on TG4.

Brian Fox was not in attendance that night, the Tipperary football training calling their team captain to Dr Morris Park in Thurles.

But he didn’t need that footage to brush up on his knowledge of his uncle’s exploits.

Source: TG4/YouTube

“I remember it was ’95, one of his last matches coming on as a sub and it was one of my first matches going to a Munster championship match.

“I was only 6 at the time. You wanted to go see your uncle play and wear the Tipperary jersey. That was special. He was a local hero.

“It was one thing you’d always be known for, Pat Fox being your uncle. Even when I went to secondary school in Tipp town, it was a big deal.”

That family hurling tradition has been maintained. Brian’s cousin Tom is starting to make a breakthrough on the Tipperary senior hurling scene, claiming a spot on the bench last month for the Munster quarter-final against Cork.

Back in 2009, Brian had run outs with the Tipperary U21 hurlers and a bunch that he shared a dressing-room with then have gone on to bigger and better things on the hurling front.

Padraic Maher and Seamus Callanan celebrate with the Liam McCarthy Cup Seamus Callanan and Padraic Maher celebrate with the Liam MacCarthy Cup in 2016 Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“I would have played with Seamie Callanan, Bonner (Maher), Noel (McGrath), Padraic Maher. I remember playing U21 hurling with them, we beat Cork in Semple Stadium years ago now.

“Those boys are very supportive as well. We’d be in contact with the hurlers and they’d be fierce supportive of the football. A lot of them would actually go to matches as well.

“Myself, I went to school in St Ailbe’s in Tipp town and there was more football in the school than hurling.

“On the back of that I got on the minors and I just wanted to play for Tipperary, hurling or football, I didn’t care, because I’d always had the attitude of treating it the same. It was a natural thing to keep going.”

That same year where his U21 days ended was when John Evans handed him first taste of senior football championship action. Having joined the squad the year before, the Éire Óg-Annacarty man has been a constant fixture ever since.

“This is my 10th year with the squad and we’ve won three titles. Not many teams can say that.

“There has been years where you’d say that, ‘God are we ever going to make a breakthrough, are we ever going to actually progress or are we just going to stay stagnant?’

“The last three or four years we have made a lot of progress in a number of different ways between winning leagues and our championship run.

Tipperary celebrate after the game Tipperary players celebrate their Division 3 final win over Louth. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“(That’s) off the back of a number of minor teams that were getting to Munster finals and 2011 that team that won the All-Ireland and the U21 team that got to the All-Ireland final in 2015.

“I wouldn’t be saying I’m just trying to hang around, I’m fierce competitive and I want to play the whole time and I want to test myself at the highest level.

“But when you have fellas coming up behind you and competing with you for places, it does make it that bit easier to go training and give it your all.”

He’s well placed to judge the hurling v football debate surrounding Tipperary’s prospects but can see the fruits of their 2016 labour that concluded at the All-Ireland semi-final stage.

“It’s a big thing in the media that we don’t have a huge following. But even this year I can definitely see a difference in the amount of people that turn up to our league games.

“Whereas before it might be 200 or 300, you’d nearly know every single person. Now it might be 500 or 600, which people don’t realise is a huge increase in coming to watch our games.

“You do appreciate it. There’s no point saying the crowd doesn’t give you a lift, the supporters have a huge role to play in any game.”

Tipperary fans celebrate after the game Tipperary fans celebrating their victory over Galway last July Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“I use the minor hurlers and footballers as an example, both of them having success (in 2015). But since this new thing where they don’t allow any dual players at minors, the footballers have suffered more than the hurlers because the hurlers still have a major hold over players.

“Whereas I think if there were dual players allowed, our minor footballers would be more successful and would be competing a lot more.

“I remember when I was U21 hurling, I was playing senior football. Declan Carr and John Evans sat down and talked about what nights I was available to the U21 hurlers and what nights they needed me more than senior footballers.

“(It was) just juggling my timetable a small bit. If you want it bad enough you’ll do it and if they’re understanding about tit, they shouldn’t have any problems about it.”

Their fanbase swelled as last summer progressed but for Fox it was not one of their Croke Park clashes at the tail end of the 2016 season which stood out.

“It was the Cork game. It was the first time I’d beaten them at senior and I’ve played Cork so many times at underage.

“They beat me in two Munster U21 finals, I remember they got a last minute goal in 2009.

“It was the corner back Noel Galvin scored it, I remember it well, 30 seconds left on the clock.

Noel Galvin celebrates Noel Galvin celebrates Cork's 2009 Munster U21 final win Source: John D Kelly/INPHO

“So to finally get over Cork and beat them in Semple Stadium was huge.

Brian Fox scores their third goal Brian Fox scores Cork's third goal against Tipperary Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Brian Fox celebrates scoring Brian Fox celebrates hitting the net against Cork last year Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

“Afterwards we were saying, we nearly threw it away like we did two years ago. We had actually probably played better in 2014 against them than we had in 2016 and we ran out of steam.

“But thankfully fellas stood up and did what they had to do and we got over the line.”

When Peter Acheson confirmed last August that he was bound for Dubai, it left Tipperary with a captain vacancy. In early February, manager Liam Kearns turned to Fox to slot in and in April he lifted a trophy in the Hogan Stand.

Brian Fox lifts the trophy Tipperary captain Brian Fox Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

“You never expect to be named captain. It’s a huge honour to be given the captaincy from Liam and from the team.

“Everyone dreams of lifting a cup on the steps of the Hogan Stand, I’m no different. It was a huge honour and I’m delighted to be able to do it. It was a bit of a surreal feeling.

I’m lucky that I am there with a crowd of lads that are hugely committed. There’s a combination of lads coming together and it works but the key thing now is to maintain it and improve upon it even further.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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