BY DENIS HURLEY
WHEREAS the meeting of Tipperary and Cork in Thurles in last year’s Allianz FL was a subplot in a relegation battle, this time round the sides meet with promotion in their sights.
The sides meet at Semple Stadium at 7pm on Saturday night, with Cork top of the Division 3 table after three wins from three, a point ahead of Longford, while Tipp share third spot with Derry and Down.
However, Courtmacsherry resident Kiely – who has opted to join Barryroe this year following five seasons with Carbery Rangers – doesn’t necessarily feel that Tipp are under pressure to get a win to stay in the hunt for a return to Division 2.
‘I don’t think so,’ he says.
‘For us, I think this year is more about getting to know each other again. We don’t have too much pressure as we’re still getting to terms with the way they want to play and the different style compared to what we had previously.
‘Anytime you play Cork though, it’s a good one, to try to get the upper hand in case we come across them again in championship, to have that in the back pocket.’
David Power has come in as Tipperary manager this year. The former Wexford boss has had success with the Premier County at underage, guiding the county to the 2011 All-Ireland minor title, while he has also managed the Tipp U21s.
Kiely has been impressed by the approach of the new management, which also includes former Dublin star Paddy Christie and former Clare goalkeeper Joe Hayes.
‘I think the aim for them at the start was to give everyone a clean slate and that’s what’s happened,’ he says.
‘Fellas are getting more chances and mostly it’s just getting used to lads. We’re still only three or four months into it.
‘We’re happy enough with that’s going on, there are a few lads in there with fairly vast experience and you like to bounce ideas off them.
‘A good few boys would have played under David and I’d have bounced a few questions off them to find out what he was like, before we went back in.
‘Everyone’s very happy with him, he’s a brilliant man-manager and he knows how to get the players playing for him.’
Kiely, who works for Clearstream, based on Albert Quay in Cork, is of course very familiar with Saturday’s opponents.
‘It’s always nice to play Cork, in fairness,’ he says, ‘you get to play a few lads you know from championship.
‘I normally get put up against lads from the Haven, or John O’Rourke, he’s always buzzing around the place, it’s hard to keep track of him!’
They come into the game on the back of a defeat to Derry, but prior to that they had beaten Louth and drawn with Down in their first outing.
‘It was a big game for us,’ Kiely says, ‘especially at home in Clonmel, which is the heart of Tipp football.
‘We wanted to put on a big performance that day against Down and the fact we were down to 14 men for a lot of the game, with black cards and a red, a draw was a good result.
‘Discipline is something we’ll have to work on for the future. If we had had 15 men for the whole game, we could have snatched the win and we would have two wins on the board, which would be great.’
Looking further ahead, Tipp theoretically have a more straightforward passage to a Munster final as they are on the opposite side of the draw to the Cork-Kerry semi-final clash. Tipp play Clare in Thurles in a quarter-final on May 9th and would then face Limerick or Waterford in the semis, but Kiely isn’t taking anything for granted.
‘I think the last few years we’ve been fairly close to Cork,’ he says.
‘But, for us, it’s all about the first round, that’s what caught us last year [Tipp lost a quarter-final to Limerick] and it had a knock-on effect for the whole year.
‘We just have to take each game as it comes and see where that takes us.’