Sports

Tipp Face Antrim In League Opener Next Sunday

Thursday, 2 February 2017

UP TO last year, eleven teams had yet to reach the quarter finals of the All-Ireland senior football championship. With Tipperary and Clare moving into the last eight, the total reduced to nine. Antrim are one of those nine and Tipp will host the Glensmen in Semple Stadium next Sunday in the opening round of the Allianz Football League.
In recent times Tipp faced Antrim twice in the last five years. Both games were played in
Semple Stadium the first in 2012 when Antrim came away with a 1-13 to 0-13 win. Two years later Tipperary turned the tables with a resounding 3-20 to 1-17 victory.
Indeed the sides met seven times in the league between 2004 and 2014 with Tipp taking the lion's share.
Tipp played in Division 3 in last year's Allianz league campaign and finished in fifth place while Antrim were promoted from Division 4. While both teams will be determined to gain promotion it is imperative that Tipperary get there and repeat their 2009 success when they defeated Down in the Division 3 final plus gaining promotion.
This will be Tipp's third season in Division 3 since gaining promotion from Division 4 in 2014 when they beat Clare in the Division 4 decider. Since then they have faced 11 different counties including Kildare, Limerick, Fermanagh, Clare, Wexford, Westmeath Armagh, Louth, Sligo, Offaly, Longford winning six, drawing three and being defeated in five.
In 2015 they had Peter Creedon as manager and Tipp won four games with the one point defeat to Armagh in round 1 leaving the Premier with some ground to make up. With Liam Kearns as manager in 2016 they went through the campaign with two wins and three draws and finished sixth on seven points with a score difference of minus nine points, an indication of how close to promotion they were.
Overall Tipp's run in the last two seasons yielded six wins, three draws and five defeats. The odds this time suggest that Tipp should make the top two but Armagh, Laois, Offaly and Longford will have a major say. Their recent form in the McGrath Cup won't help as Liam Kearns gave new faces in the panel their chance to impress. However they lost heavily to Kerry (3-11 to 1-3) and Cork (2-22 to 1-10). Some of those faces include Paddy Codd, Liam Casey, Jason Lonergan and Kevin Fahy, who have returned to the squad after heading for the USA last year. In addition Liam McGrath - All-Ireland winning captain 2012 - is also available but Tipp will sadly miss the services of Peter Acheson who has emigrated to Dubai and he will be a loss to the midfield area. That midfield area will be difficult to replace as Colm O'Riordan and Steven O'Brien are also unavailable.
But Tipp surely have the best attack any team can possess for competition in Division 3 with Philip Austin, Conor Sweeney, Michael Quinlivan, Josh Keane and Brian Fox in the groove.
Next Sunday's game should provide victory as Antrim may find Division 3 a step too far. However expectations are high and it could take effect on the team as it's early days in the season.

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