Tipperary's Munster title victory was ostensibly a shock result, although rarely can a shock result been as widely touted beforehand.

Cork were officially the favourites, carrying all the pressure that entails, but in the days leading up to the match, it felt like half the English-speaking world were muttering, on the quiet, that they had a fancy for Tipp.

This reflected both a long-standing uncertainty about the Cork footballers' bona fides, but also a respect for the enormous talent, arguably under-exploited, within Tipp's ranks. 

Throw in the emotional charge of the Bloody Sunday centenary weekend, the wearing of the Grangemockler jerseys, and you had all the ingredients for a historic breakthrough. Surely, no one who ever consults their intuition, rather than mere cold logic and National League standings, before a match, could have been that shocked by the outcome?

Certainly, no one in Mayo should be anything other than wary of Tipp's threat.


The current squad contains six playing members - plus the manager - of the 2011 Tipperary minor team, who won one of the most famous All-Ireland minor titles in history, upsetting a team containing Jack McCaffrey, Ciaran Kilkenny, Paul Mannion and Cormac Costello in dramatic circumstances. 

There's eight players from the team who lost a deeply contentious All-Ireland U21 final to Tyrone in 2015. And there's still nine survivors from the Liam Kearns-managed team who played Mayo in the All-Ireland semi-final four years ago. 

They may be mired in Division 3 obscurity - and they were flirting hard with Division 4 status prior to lockdown - but clearly the raw material was there in Tipp football. 

Conor Sweeney and Philip Austin after the Munster final

The temporary return of Colin O'Riordan from Australia has given the Tipperary 2020 side a 'band back together' feel.

O'Riordan, signed by the Sydney Swans in late 2015, may well have been the greatest player/athlete to emerge from the Tipperary wave of underage success in the early '10s. 

He admitted to being emotional while watching Tipperary's stunning progression in 2016 from afar and told the Irish Examiner that the thought of returning to play in that year's Munster final had crossed his mind, before coming "back to reality".

But this unique championship has taken place during the Aussie Rules off-season and O'Riordan has been back in Tipp for the duration. In the wake of fellow AFL player Mark Keane's last-ditch goal for Cork against Kerry, O'Riordan spent the week badgering the Sydney Swans hierarchy to allow him play the Munster final. They relented. 

Undoubted star of the provincial run is captain Conor Sweeney, a graduate of the 2010 U21 Munster winning team, who has struck a cumulative total of 1-18 thus far, landing a last-gasp sideline to force extra-time and keep their hopes alive in a titanic semi-final against Limerick. 

Michael Quinlivan, that other much-feared weapon in the Tipp forward line, shook off his underwhelming form in the early Munster rounds to land four points from play in the decider against Cork. 

Mayo's arrival at the last-four stage has been a little more prosaic. They looked a spent force after last year. 

The county did claim a National League title in spring 2019. While this may not have been seen as 'the real thing', it was nonetheless a merciful release for a generation of players who came so close to an All-Ireland title on so many occasions.   

In the subsequent championship, they did well to battle their way back to a semi-final after being stunned by Roscommon in their provincial opener. 

But there was an air of finality about the semi-final loss. For the first time in the modern era, the Dubs inflicted a proper championship hammering on Mayo, the one team who always managed to escape this fate in summer-time. 

But Horan appears to have managed the transition well. 

One wouldn't want to over-state the transformation. Nine of the starting team in the Connacht final featured in last year's All-Ireland semi-final, with veteran defender Keith Higgins being introduced late in the game.

James Horan hugging Tommy Conroy after the Connacht final

The Mayo boss has nonetheless sprinkled the side with new players in 2020, nicely scattered out on the pitch. 

From the Salthill game, Oisin Mullin was new in the full-back line, Eoghan McLaughlin impressed in the half-back line, Ryan O'Donoghue has nailed down a place in the half-forward line, and Tommy Conroy, in the full-forward line, lobbed over three points from play in the Connacht final.

Tom Parsons, Donal Vaughan, Seamus O'Shea and Colm Boyle have yet to feature in any game since the resumption - though the latter has had to overcome a long-term knee injury.   

But the O'Connors, Aidan O'Shea, Lee Keegan, Paddy Durcan and Chris Barrett remain central to the effort, giving the team a nice blend of youth and experience. 

Relegation from Division 1 didn't say much for their progress but that was principally a legacy of their indifferent form pre-coronavirus. 

They've been far more switched on since the resumption, catching the eye with a thorough demolition job of Galway in the league and a comfortable victory over a frequent irritant in Roscommon in the Connacht semi-final.

Their Connacht final performance wouldn't have unduly frightened the rest of the field but any sort of championship victory over Galway will probably suffice for Mayo fans. The western decider was tense but error-ridden, possibly unsurprising given the venue. 

The widespread perception is that Tipp are in bonus territory while Mayo's experience of this environment should give them the edge, as it did, after a struggle, in 2016.

Pat Spillane sees Tipperary as holding an advantage in midfield and in their own half-back line but Aidan O'Rourke considers it "inconceivable" that Mayo will fall into their old traps of failing to protect the full-back line and taking too many low-percentage shots. 

A sizeable proportion of the public believe this game is a battle to see who'll lose this All-Ireland final. That's for another day. 

For today, Mayo should have enough but they will be wary of Tipperary's attacking arsenal.  

Tipperary: Evan Comerford; Alan Campbell, Jimmy Feehan, Colm O'Shaughnessy; Bill Maher, Kevin Fahey, Robbie Kiely; Steven O'Brien, Liam Casey; Colin O'Riordan, Michael Quinlivan, Conal Kennedy; Brian Fox, Conor Sweeney (Capt), Colman Kennedy.

Subs: Michael O'Reilly, Tadhg Fitzgerald, Dáire Brennan, Emmet Moloney, Padraic Looram, Paudie Feehan, Jack Kennedy, Philip Austin, Jason Lonergan, Mark Stokes, Liam Boland.

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Watch Mayo v Tipperary (Sunday 3.30pm) live on RTÉ2 and RTÉ Player, listen to live commentary on RTÉ Radio 1 and get live blogs, reports and reaction on RTÉ Sport Online and the RTÉ News app. Highlights on The Sunday Game, 9.30pm RTÉ2