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Dublin: 8°C Wednesday 24 February 2021
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'I won't be travelling over and back every year so this could be my last one' - back from Dubai for Tipp final

Former Tipperary captain Peter Acheson will return to line out for Moyle Rovers in Semple Stadium next Sunday.

ON FRIDAY MORNING Peter Acheson will leave his home in Dubai, head to the airport and his flight is scheduled to touch down in Dublin at lunchtime.

Peter Acheson celebrates Peter Acheson celebrating Tipperary's 2016 quarter-final victory over Galway, Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

All going well he’ll back home in south Tipperary that afternoon and on the field training with Moyle Rovers that evening, as they put the finishing touches to their county final preparations.

Saturday will be a day to relax at home and catch up with his family, come Sunday afternoon he aims to hit the ground running in Semple Stadium on the biggest day in the Tipperary club football calendar.

If it sounds like an exhausting and frenzied schedule, then that is the investment of time and effort the 28-year-old is willing to make.

It’s nine years since Moyle Rovers were last at the summit in Tipperary, the solitary senior success that Acheson was part of. He was frustrated in attempts to get a second medal after that and then when he moved to the Middle East towards the end of 2016, he figured that chapter of his life was behind him.

Playing in October is generally a common aim that club players share at the start of a season. If you’re still kicking ball at this time of year, the chances are that a county final of some description is on the agenda.

At the outset of 2018, that was not something on Acheson’s radar as the prospect of playing with Moyle Rovers seemed remote. It was not until the season drifted on that it was first floated with the former Tipperary captain.

Aidan O'Shea and Peter Acheson Tipperary faced Mayo in Acheson's last game for the county in 2016. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

“Obviously I was always following the lads, to see how they were getting on,” says Acheson.

“I knew they were doing well. I’d been in contact with a few of the management team, just general chit-chat. David Conway, he’s a selector I would have played with before, we’d a quick chat at one stage about how they were getting on.

“He kind of just said tongue in cheek would I come back for the later stages of the championship and I said I would. We left it at that and there was nothing else said.”

Coming home for a holiday in late August had been planned for while by himself and his girlfriend Roisin. He went up to watch club training on a Friday night when he returned and manager Niall Fitzgerald, who Acheson lined out with when the club collected Tipperary honours in 2009, didn’t hesitate in roping him in.

“Fitzy asked would I tog out for a Portlaoise friendly game on the Sunday, so I did that. Then he asked me would I play the Galtee Rovers game, the last in the group stage, and that’s where it started.”

That last game completed the round-robin assignments and in late September the serious knockout stuff loomed on the horizon. A towering figure at the heart of the Tipperary senior effort before he departed two years ago, there was always going to be an eagerness to utilise Acheson’s talents on the club stage.

“The lads asked me to come back for the quarter-final then (against Killenaule), so I flew in for two days for that game and then I came back for three days for the Commercials game two weeks later.”

A pair of victories later and he finds himself many miles from home thinking of a county final Sunday.

“It’s a strange one alright,” laughs Acheson.

“The one thing I do miss while I’m out here, family and friends now obviously, but club football is a big pull I do miss. I’m glad to get the opportunity to play. The year before I left I was captain, we lost (by a point) to Commercials (in the final) so that stung a bit.

Peter Acheson and Pat Begley Peter Acheson (left) in action against Kerins O'Rahilly's in the 2009 Munster club championship. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“At the time there was no talk of Dubai so I thought I’d have a chance to get payback and try and win a county final. Then I left after the 2016 All-Ireland (semi-final), we were in the final that year also but I couldn’t fly back due to visa reasons.

“The visa process in Dubai had started so I couldn’t get back for it. That was a bit of a sucker punch. It makes it all worthwhile when you’re flying over eight hours for two days and back again. When you’re winning, it’s going to be worth it all the time.”

There’s been a bit of an adjustment process, shifting his mind to playing Gaelic football in Tipperary again. The weather conditions at this stage of a campaign are in stark contrast to the baking heat of Dubai.

“For the Killenaule game, it rained out of the heavens before the game. I was fairly sickened, I’d the mouldy studs on, I’ve no hard studs out here.

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“After about five or ten minutes of slipping, I whipped them off and put on the steel studs then. It’s different alright, there’s no hopping of the ball this time of the year. But I’ve three games under the belt now, hopefully it will be a bit easier for me for the next one.”

Getting up to the speed of play was not as much of an issue. He plays for Jumeirah Gaels, who will be commencing their campaign in the coming weeks, and had a block of pre-season work in the bank before returning home to feature for Moyle Rovers. He tips away regularly at soccer as well.

“The fitness wasn’t an issue at all. It’s just the GAA out here is nine-a-side. It’s a different tempo game, it’s a little bit different. The first game or two back, the fitness was there, it was just getting my eye in. I think it’s back now, so hopefully I can push on again.”

The pangs of regret at missing club action at home are eased by how much he is enjoying his new life. He’s an operations manager for the UAE for dewatering company Hydroserv, which was founded by Tom Doyle from Carlow and Kerry man Barry O’Sullivan.

“It’s getting better and better to be honest. Work is going very well. Roisin is flying in work too, so life’s going well and the lifestyle’s great. We’re after meeting plenty of friends out here too. I’d say we’ll be here for the foreseeable future .”

That rules him out of Tipperary’s plans. He moved on after being a cornerstone of their memorable journey to the last four in 2016 yet always watches their fortunes closely.

“A lot of Moyle Rovers lads and a good few lads I soldiered with for years are still there too. It’s great that Liam Kearns is staying on for another year, I think that would have been a massive loss if they’d lost Liam.

Liam Kearns with Peter Acheson Peter Acheson celebrating the 2016 All-Ireland quarter-final victory over Galway with Liam Kearns. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

“I just think they need to get a few more younger lads in through. Guys like Sweeney, Fox and Kiely are still under 30 years of age, Campbell and Mikey are 25/26, just a crop of younger lads (is needed). I know Jack Kennedy came through last year, a few more maybe. I think they could then give Munster a crack.”

He saw a few of those former county team-mates sink in despair after the semi-final, a last-gasp goal snatching victory against the reigning kingpins Clonmel Commercials.

“For the Commercials, it’s always a very, very difficult way to lose. They’re obviously our main rivals. I do feel for the lads, it happened to us in 2015.

“There’s literally no worse way to lose. A draw would probably have been a fair result on the day. But in Sean Carey style, anybody else on that team would have probably tapped the ball over the bar to make sure a draw, but (he had the) confidence, he stuck the goal, thank God.”

And so that result propelled them into a decider and necessitates another long-haul flight for Acheson. It’s an undertaking he’s glad to make and is conscious that this set of personal circumstances place the onus on ensuring the silverware comes back into the Moyle Rovers dressing-room on Sunday.

As a youngster Acheson witnessed a golden period for the club, five county championships harvested between 1995 and 2000, along with a couple of trips to Munster finals. He started out in his senior career playing with the club’s most celebrated operator Declan Browne and is keen to atone for the disappointment of final losses since 2009.

Francis McInerney and Jimmy Dunne 20/12/1998 Moyle Rovers faced Doonbeg in the 1998 Munster senior club football final. Source: Lorraine O'Sullivan/INPHO

Standing in their path is Ardfinnan, mastermind by his old county manager John Evans.

“For the older generation, Moyle Rovers and Ardfinnan would have had a lot of battles back in the day. (John) Evans will get absolutely everything out of that team. I’d say they’re buzzing now for this.

“The Foleys’, John Owens, Jimmy Dunne and the lads, were winning county titles nearly every year and challenging to win (in) Munster. I grew up watching them. This county final will be massive for me, it could be my last one.

“Back in 2009 when I won my first senior county title, I thought I’d win two, three more, maybe four hopefully, but it wasn’t to be. I won’t be travelling over and back every year so this could be my last one. It’d be massive to get a county medal.”

One last journey in 2018 to make then in the pursuit of silver.

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Fintan O'Toole

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