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Dublin: 8 °C Tuesday 26 March, 2019

'I thought the second half was bordering on heroic' - Tipp boss Kearns bursting with pride

The Premier County manager felt the black and red cards proved crucial.

TIPPERARY MANAGER LIAM Kearns expressed his pride after his side’s memorable run to the All-Ireland semi-final came to an end at Croke Park yesterday.

Liam Kearns talks to his players at the end of the game Kearns speaks to his players at the final whistle. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

The Premier County defied all odds to reach this stage of the football championship and they held their own for large periods against a Mayo side who have now reached the decider three times in five years.

Tipperary’s cause wasn’t helped by an early black card shown to Robbie Kiely and then the late dismissal of Bill Maher as they slipped to a 2-13 to 0-14 defeat at HQ.

But speaking in his post-match press conference, Kearns was full of praise for his players as he looked back on a fairytale campaign.

“I was as proud of them today as I was three weeks ago, more proud maybe,” he said.

“I thought the second half was bordering on heroic, I thought they were outstanding. I said to them at half-time, ‘we’re not lying down here’, and no-one lay down. They went out and brought the game to them, as we have throughout this campaign.

“Ultimately we didn’t get the break, we had two injuries and the depth in our squad probably told against us in the end. We had a black card that was very hard for us to take, and a red card at the finish.

“The second Mayo goal was a killer, he was going for a point, slipped and it ended up at the feet of the player who pulled on it for a goal.

“We didn’t get the breaks but the players never gave up, they played to the end and played football the way it should be played. They put everything in, they’re totally committed, and I couldn’t be more proud of it.”

Stephen Rochfort and Liam Kearns Kearns shakes hands with Mayo boss Stephen Rochford. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

On reflection, there were three crucial moments in the game. With just eight minutes on the click, centre-back Kiely was given his marching orders for hauling down Diarmuid O’Connor.

Mayo took full advantage as they scored 1-4 without reply as Tipp looked to reshuffle their defensive structure.

“It was a huge loss (Robbie Kiely), we brought in Shane Leahy and he’s a bit inexperienced, it was his first time on that stage, it was tough going,” Kearns continued.

“Diarmuid O’Connor caused us problems at wing-forward and unfortunately we had to take Shane off. It took us until half-time to sort things out in the dressing-room but we did sort it out.

“We got back within two points and I was confident we’d take it to the wire. It wasn’t to be because we got a few more knocks and we probably can’t sustain those knocks.

“We were six-three up when Robbie got the black card and going well, I thought we should have been more up, but when they got a run on us they caused problems, Andy Moran caused us problems inside and they got on top in the middle third.

Evan Comerford at the end of the game Evan Comerford dejected. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“They dominated there, that’s where the damage was done.”

Given it was their first appearance at this stage of the championship for 80 years, Tipperary certainly didn’t look out of place — and Kearns admits it’s up to the players and management to ensure it wasn’t a once off.

“I let others judge if we can get back, but the  boys have been very comfortable out here, they haven’t left themselves down in Croke Park in the quarter- or semi-final.

“Mayo have been in six semi-finals in a row, this is our first time here. My view is that Tipperary can aspire to come back to this level on a regular basis, providing we get things right, total commitment – there’s a lot of good players in tipperary who could have been with us today but weren’t, so we need to get our set-up right back in the county.”

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Ryan Bailey

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