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'I just put in an emotional plea to them' - From Sydney approval to a Tipperary Munster champion

Colin O’Riordan on going from AFL to a Tipperary football triumph.

Colin O'Riordan and Steven O'Brien after
Colin O'Riordan and Steven O'Brien after
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

ULTIMATELY IT WAS simply the appeal of a Munster final that drew Colin O’Riordan in.

The bid for that coveted provincial senior football medal and the realisation that this strange sporting year had created an opportunity that was not likely to be repeated soon.

Contractually his sporting obligations are to the Sydney Swans. His focus has been on the AFL and life in Australia ever since he signed up in 2015.

But a November decider with Tipperary taking on a Cork team they felt they had a good shot at beating? That was a prospect too hard to resist and O’Riordan made ‘an emotional plea’ to Sydney Swans to grant him this dispensation in the off season.

“That’s the dream of every kid when you’re starting off playing football at underage – to be there on the big occasion. This year my circumstances were a bit different than the usual ones. I just put in an emotional plea to them and explained to them what it means for me to play for Tipp football.

“They granted me permission, I can’t have anything but good things to say about Sydney. They gave me the opportunity to play here today and gave me my chance to make my dreams come true and for that I’ll be forever grateful to them.

conor-sweeney-lifts-the-trophy-after-tipperary-are-munster-champions Conor Sweeney lifts the Munster senior football trophy. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

“The Munster final to me that was the big one. You grew up playing with Tipp and you realise the year that’s in it with Bloody Sunday and you want to be part of it.

“When David (Power) came to me and asked ‘what are the chances?’ I said I’d ask and give it a go. I approached Conor Sweeney, going back a bit. Conor is the epitome of what a captain should be. I said, ‘look Conor I want to play or whatever.’ He said, ‘Colin, we’d love to have you onboard.’ For me, when you get the confidence like that from some of the lads that gives you the real lift.”

O’Riordan says it had not crossed his mind once the GAA championship was shifted from the traditional summer date that a Tipperary comeback could have been in store for him later in the year. The sight of Collingwood’s Mark Keane popping up as the Cork hero a fortnight ago did not push him in that direction either.

He admits it would have been hard to watch on from the sidelines.

colin-oriordan-with-sean-meehan-and-mattie-taylor Colin O'Riordan rises high in action against Cork's Sean Meehan and Mattie Taylor. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“If I’m being honest, and being selfish, it probably would have been heartbreaking looking at the lads. But at the same time I know the calibre of lads we have out there, we actually have 41 lads that are training with us, to me that speaks volumes of where Tipp football has got to.”

The green and white jerseys Tipperary wore to commemorate their predecessors a century ago brought an emotive touch to the game. O’Riordan and his team-mates were conscious of that not overwhelming them.

“We couldn’t ignore it. You can’t rock up in a different jersey on Munster final day and say, ‘it’s just another game’, because it’s not, that’s the reality. We approached it as we’re getting a new jersey, we identified it earlier in the week.

“And that can rattle people, but I think the way we went about it was very good, we wore it a few times in training matches and just got used to it. It sounds like a simple incidental thing, but at the end of the day that can rattle teams.

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“We spoke about it, what it means to play for Tipp, the passion you have to bring and I guess the weekend that was in it, it was fitting that we won the Munster final.

“I tell you, if someone comes to take this jersey off, it’ll be framed up in my room.”

colin-oriordan-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle Colin O'Riordan celebrates at the final whistle after Tipperary's win. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Victory completes his Munster football collection – minor (2011 & 2012) and U21 (2015) the previous wins. Yet having watched from afar for the Mayo game four years ago, he’ll leave the medal counting aside and focus on that renewal of acquaintances.

“I don’t have the U14 one, and I can’t win that now,” smiled O’Riordan.

“I actually hadn’t thought of that but it’s a massive honour. There’s a time to look at medals and there’s a time to put them away and look at them in the future. I think, without sounding like I’m not a grateful man, I’ll put it away now and concentrate on two weeks.

“I’m not going to go home and stare at it every night before I go to bed. It’s a medal that will be there until the day I die, and that’s the way it will be.

“I always say that (2016) was one of the most emotional rollercoasters I had, just watching that game at two in the morning. That was a hard one to stomach, especially because it was my first one gone, Tipp had such a good year that year.

“But we’ve another opportunity now. If you told us at the start of the year we’d be in an All-Ireland semi-final you’d take your arm off for it, you’d take whatever was on offer.

“To be in it as Munster champions is even more special.”

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Fintan O'Toole

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