Beating Kerry at underage, learning from sledging and Tipp’s hurling-football debate

Steven o’brien was crowned the GAA-GPA Player of the Month award for May yesterday.

The Tipperary midfielder looks ahead to Sunday’s showdown with Kerry, looks back at that U21 loss to Tyrone and talks about the county’s hurling-football debate.

Steven O'Brien under pressure

1. He’s never lost a championship match to Kerry

Not too many Tipperary players can boast of a record like O’Brien’s.

“We’ve been lucky enough that we haven’t been beaten by Kerry since I started playing. (U14) was my first year with the county. Kerry at the time, they were divided into two.

“I think we played them minor twice., we didn’t play them U21.

“We’ve just been lucky with underage, hopefully we can drive it on for senior now and keep that streak going.”

Greg Horan and Brian Crowley follow Steven O'Brien 8 7 2012

2. The last time Kerry and Tipperary clashed in championship, O’Brien was still in school

Tipperary suffered quite a hammering in that game as Kerry ran out 17-point winners.

“I was sitting my Leaving Cert at the time so it wasn’t until later that I was brought into the panel.

“We’d like to think we’ve done the work to try and close the gap, that’s what you hope year on year, and we definitely think that we have the gap closed.

“If we didn’t, sure what would be the point in showing up at all?”

3. The hurt of that recent All-Ireland U21 final loss was helped by returning to the senior setup

O’Brien was part of a Tipperary team that came agonisingly close to triumphing against Tyrone.

“We were obviously devastated but the lads were like brothers to us, they threw our arms around us. It helped us get through what was a difficult period for us.

“We knew we’d a senior championship , you just have to pick up the pieces again.

“I’d exams two weeks after (in DCU), some of the lads in UCD were that week which was very tough. I was trying to study that week. Left alone for ten minutes, trying to study by yourself, all you’re thinking about is Tyrone the week before. It’s life, you have to get through it.”

4. O’Brien and his Tipperary teammates learned a bit from that sledging controversy

“Every man, woman and child in Tipperary realised that this is what teams are going to do,” remarks O’Brien.

“Definitely as a group we’ve learned a lot – just be aware of it but not get distracted by it. I think that’s what can happen teams who have basically been sledged, they get frustrated.

“Now that we know it’s going to happen, mentally we’re prepared for it I suppose and it’s just don’t let it affect us.”

5. O’Brien is pretty familiar with that Dublin to Tipperary train line

“I’m based in DCU. I’d be up and down, Tuesday and Thursday nights. There’s about seven of us at the minute, there’s lads working there in town and they’re living southside.

“We usually get the train down together. You can have the craic on the way down, you’re not left on your own. You’d be back at ten to eleven, get a taxi out to DCU.

“I’m still up for the summer working with Volkswagen, a group out in Liffey Valley there.”

6. And he reckons football is starting to become more attractive for the Tipperary hurling fraternity

“Lads when they come out of minor at the minute it seems more luxurious to be in with the Tipp hurling panel.

“But given how we have done at underage and how we hope to push on they wouldn’t be automatically thinking straight to hurling. It would be a long thought process. Lads are wanting to play football for Tipperary which is great.

Seamus Kennedy 11 1 2015

“Seamus (Kennedy) won a minor with us in 2011 and was captain for one of the years at U21. He knows the background of football in Tipp and he can see where the thing is going I guess.

“He gave it a shot with the senior hurlers last year and he felt he wanted to be part of a panel where he was getting game time. He was welcomed into the senior football panel and he has made serious strides.”

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Beating Kerry at underage, learning from sledging and Tipp’s hurling-football debate