SOME people might see the build-up to an All-Ireland final as being nothing more than a distraction before the big day. Not Brendan Cummins.
“I gave between 2001 and 2008 watching the finals and not playing in them, so there’s great excitement about this final,” said the Tipp goalkeeper. “It’s where we all wanted to be.”
The netminder gave an honest assessment of Tipp’s march to the final. For him, the big success was how the side proved they had the hunger to get there.
“The whole country might have said it would be another Tipp and Kilkenny final, but having stuck through all the battles it’s great to know that we still have it in the tank to get back to this stage,” he said. “It hasn’t been a familiar spot for Tipperary, to show consistency, but for this group of players has done that. Now, winning the final is the most important thing.”
Making the final as champions also provided a new viewpoint for Cummins. Now Tipp can relate to how Kilkenny felt before the 2010 decider.
“We know what Kilkenny felt like last year,” he said. “Even though they were going for the five in a row and history, there’s a bit of history in it for us too not having put two All-Irelands together for almost 50 years (1964 and 1965).
“There’s always pressure going into a final - everyone will give you all the stats - but I see it as a great opportunity to win a medal, one that might not come around too often,” he added.
“We’ll have to really focused on the job in hand, prepare yourself even better than you did every other year because I think this year it’s going to take an even bigger push to beat Kilkenny; they don’t have that weight of history on their shoulders. They have a full strength team and no distractions.”
Even in Tipp, the players knew of the pressure Brian Cody’s side faced as they moved towards hurling history.
“There was bound to be pressure on them - there were thousands in at their training sessions,” he said. “That’s huge pressure on amateurs, but that’s what goes with the success they had. Tipp players have seen that over the last 12 months, the hype that surrounds winning an All-Ireland.
“We’ve only won one,” he added. “Can you imagine what it was like to have four and then be aiming for five?”
It’s that talk of success that seems to be the spur driving Cummins on. Until last year he had just one All-Ireland medal in his possession, but a hunger for more.
“Supporters have huge expectations and we want to deliver on them, but you have to live with that,” he said. “Kilkenny have set the bar with the belief that having one All-Ireland is fine, but winning two, three or even four is what you want for your career.
“In 2001, when we would have won the All-Ireland, we applied the handbrake - and then gave several years stuck in reverse. That’s not acceptable; I think the new generation of player believes that.”
It’s apparent that Cummins takes a lot from Kilkenny’s hunger of wanting to win as much as possible, to not remain content with just one title.
“Subconsciously we were happy with what we had done (in 2001), but the group of players we have now have won minor and under-21 All-Irelands,” he said. “They have grown up under the shadow of Kilkenny having won so much and now they want a piece of the action.
“They have great enthusiasm, so I don’t need to drive them along - they’re the ones driving me. Under-age success has been a huge help to spur these guys along at senior level, which is something we didn’t have in 2001.”
And a spur, if it’s needed, will be the chance to play in what could be a trilogy of quality hurling finals.
“I’ve watched both games, maybe the 2009 final more than last year’s,” he said. “When you win it’s great, but when you lose it’s really to find out what went wrong and how things could have been better.
“They certainly were electric games – the ball moves around at 100 miles an hour and every mistake was punished; it seems like guys move on to ball and nothing is fumbled – possession and getting it is key. If you don’t have it, it’s damn hard to get it because Kilkenny don’t waste it no more than we do. If you cough up possession it could be fatal.
“You can see the concentration etched on the faces of the players in both games; it’s really intense,” he added. “That’s the way it has to be when you’re going for the big prize.”