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Saturday 10 December 2016

We're ambitious, we have belief in ourselves: Kearns

Tipperary’s manager Liam Kearns and forward Conor Sweeney celebrate their All-Ireland SFC quarter-final victory over Galway. Pic: Sportsfile
Tipperary’s manager Liam Kearns and forward Conor Sweeney celebrate their All-Ireland SFC quarter-final victory over Galway. Pic: Sportsfile

Liam Kearns is self-aware enough not to feign indifference or deny surprise at Tipperary's existence in the football Championship in the middle of August.

"They have a lot of belief in themselves, they're very ambitious as well. They want to take on teams," he stressed in the prelude to Sunday's All-Ireland final, before adding a dollop of realism.

"Would they have said they'd end up in an All-Ireland semi-final?

Dark Room

"If you'd asked me that six months ago and asked any of the players, we'd be looking at you and saying 'yeah, right, you'd better lie down in a dark room there or something'."

Kearns, a Kerryman, wasn't even attempting to play down expectation levels on his team when he said the consensus that Mayo already had one foot in the All-Ireland final was "probably a fair comment".

"They're six times in an All-Ireland semi-final, Dublin are seven times, Kerry are four," he added for context.

"They're the top three teams in the country for the last number of years.

"We're a Division 3 team that have come from nowhere so I can't argue with that."

Tipperary are longer odds to beat Mayo than Wexford were to get past Tyrone in 2008 or, for that manner, Fermanagh were to get to an All-Ireland final when they played Mayo in the 2004 semi-final.

"Look, we are not confident," Kearns said, when asked whether he expected his team to win on Sunday.

"We are confident we are going to perform.

"We are stepping up hugely now to the top level and we are going to find out if we are good enough.

"To say we are confident, that's not a word I would use.

"Our mantra all year has been to go out and produce our best performance and we have done that in every game, bar the Kerry game," said Kearns.

"And if we produce our best performance, I will be happy with that, regardless of what the result brings.

"And I am confident that we will produce that, whether it is good enough, whether we are improving fast enough, like it has been a very steeping learning curve.

"We started in Division three," he pointed out, "we started with nobody giving us a chance against Cork and now we are in an All-Ireland semi-final, trying to beat the three best teams in the country so it has been a steep learning curve and to say we are confident is not the way that I would put it.

"It will come out in the wash now (on Sunday), we will know whether we have enough to survive with Mayo.

"It is a big ask," Kearns concluded, "it is a big ask but we are there. We are going to find out."

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