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Tipp boss Power insists Premier won't fear Cork

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David Power. Photo: Sportsfile

David Power. Photo: Sportsfile

SPORTSFILE

David Power. Photo: Sportsfile

All things considered, Tipperary's football manager has the perfect name for the daunting challenge or challenges that lie ahead.

David Power took on Goliath nine years ago, in the guise of Dessie Farrell's Dublin minor team of 2011 - which included future senior stars Ciarán Kilkenny, John Small, Jack McCaffrey, Paul Mannion and Niall Scully - and masterminded a shock All-Ireland triumph.

Now Power aims for a similar conquest of the Cork seniors, although they mightn't quite qualify as Goliath - but after toppling Kerry it's no surprise that the bookies made them 1/5 favourites for Sunday's provincial final at Páirc Uí Chaoimh.

Time for another bout of Power-inspired giant-killing?

"I think we will get a performance," he declares. "And if we get a performance, I think we'll have a very, very good chance against Cork. That was the key message I said to the lads at training: don't be leaving Cork on Sunday without (producing) a performance."

History is against Tipp, whose last Munster SFC title was in 1935, but Power is adamant that recent history of Tipp/Cork carries far more relevance.

"I'll even go back to our U-15/16 days - this group have beaten Cork," he reminds. "This group won't fear Cork, because we've beaten them at every level going up.

"Even back in 2016 they beat Cork (in a Munster senior semi-final). OK, over the last couple of years, Cork have kind of got the run on them. But there were a couple of occasions where Tipp could easily have won, especially the game in Páirc Uí Rinn in 2017 . . . so Tipp have been very, very close. The players will believe that they can beat Cork and that's a crucial thing."

There is a bigger picture at play: the Rebels' ambush of Kerry has not alone opened up Munster's, it has created an inviting pathway for the last three teams standing on that side of the All-Ireland draw, namely Cork, Tipp and Mayo.

Power agrees that there's "a huge chance" for any of them to reach the final - a scenario far removed from Tipperary's mid-October outlook.

In his maiden campaign, the former manager of the Tipp minors, U-21s and Wexford seniors found his team labouring in Division 3. They had garnered just three points from five outings before the first lockdown, lying sixth in the table, just ahead of Leitrim on scoring difference.

But since then they have edged four close battles: initially beating Offaly by a goal and then Leitrim by two points in a crucial head-to-head to preserve their Division 3 status, then Clare by a goal and Limerick by a point in extra-time.

"It's been a super month for us," Power reflects. "Despite some people thinking the Offaly game didn't mean much, for me it meant everything because I felt if we didn't get a result against Offaly I wouldn't be here talking to you. The Offaly game gave us a platform to build some momentum."

Reflecting

But for Conor Sweeney, he wouldn't be talking to us either. Reflecting on that outrageous, ultra-pressurised free to force extra-time against Limerick, he admits he was silently imploring his skipper to work the ball short.

"But just his body language, I could see that he really fully believed that he was going to hit it. And, like, what a score!" he beams. "But that doesn't just happen. That's not a fluke. That man is a very, very modest guy; he practises, he works hard at it. Over the last couple of weeks he's really shown why he's captain of this team because he's a true leader."

Power has no fears about going to Páirc Uí Chaoimh. He looks at the team he has inherited and reckons they are "more than capable of being in Division 2".

He accepts the charge of inconsistency but maintains that it's "more of a mental thing", adding: "For some reason we seem to play to the level of our opposition; we play well against better teams, and that's not an arrogant thing."

Now the bar is set to rise considerably but he's defiantly optimistic.

"I'm dealing with a bunch of lads that have played in minor All-Ireland finals, under-21 All-Ireland finals, have played in an All-Ireland senior semi-final against Mayo. We have bags of experience and I think the players can use that to their advantage."

Power has never questioned the reality that Tipp is a "hurling county" but to win on Sunday would be a "huge statement", opening up football as an attractive option for talented young athletes in the county.

"Over the last couple of years we have been weak at under-20 and at minor, and I think that would give that kick-on," he surmises. "That players would see, 'God, look, Tipp senior football can compete at the very highest level' - because by nature Tipperary, we're high achievers. We've a lot of good sportsmen, whether they're soccer players, horse racing, whatever.

"They want to be with the best, and I think winning this Munster final would really drive it on."


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