Tipperary's Brian Fox proud to be back in Croke Park
AS someone who always plays the shirt off his back, Tipperary's Brian Fox insists it doesn't matter which colours his county wear against Mayo in next weekend's second All-Ireland SFC semi-final.
Tipp won an historic Munster title at the weekend, 100 years on from Croke Park's Bloody Sunday, in a white and green jersey commemorating that occasion and their player who was murdered on that infamous day, Michael Hogan.
There's talk that they may retain that top when they take on the Connacht champs on December 6, but Fox will be a proud man whatever they wear:
"I don't mind either way. Look, the reality is I grew up wearing the blue and gold for Tipperary so if we wear that jersey it's a huge honour in the semi-final.
"If we wear the commemoration jerseys, it's part of history what we did with those jerseys as well, so I definitely wouldn't have any problem wearing that jersey, either, if I'm honest.
"As long as I'm representing Tipperary I don't really care, I just want to represent us to the best of my ability."
That special jersey could have felt heavy against Cork, burdened by the weight of history, but instead Tipperary made light of any pressure and became provincial champions for the first time since 1935:
"We dealt with it very early," said Fox. "We were wearing the jerseys for internal training matches since the previous week. We had that flagged and we knew what the jerseys were going to look like and that goes back to the whole occasion thing because sometimes you can get caught up in it very early on.
"I watched 'The Bloodied Field' on the Monday night and I watched the whole commemoration on the Saturday and I was really taken aback by it, and watching 'The Bloodied Field' I really learned about the history of it and every individual person and what had happened. I had a fair knowledge of it already - and well done to [author and journalist] Mick Foley on that - but it definitely played on my mind after that who I was representing on the Sunday. I did not want to let anyone down."
All did Tipperary proud, making up for their Munster Final loss by 10 points against Kerry four years ago: "This time it was still a massive occasion with 'Bloody Sunday' and the jerseys and stuff like that but we definitely handled it better.
"The fact that there were no crowds there, you knew that distraction wasn't going to be there and you weren't worried about tickets for your family, all those other distractions were dealt with very early on and we got rid of them very quickly."
The absence of supporters wasn't all good, of course: "It was probably the one let-down of the whole occasion, not to have your family there.
"I got to meet them later on that night, obviously, but you know, in good times and bad - and there's been plenty of bad times, I've lost five Munster Finals [at various levels], so I know all about that - they've always been there for me, so it would have been amazing to have that moment with them out there on the pitch.
"As I was saying to them afterwards, if they'd all been there in the stadium there wouldn't have been anyone [able]to hold them back. No stewards or guards would have stopped them coming onto the pitch, and we would have been mobbed."
Tipp recovered from that 2016 Munster Final defeat by Kerry to beat Derry then Galway – and reach the county's first All-Ireland SFC semi-final since 1935 against…Mayo.
Fox was proud of their efforts, despite their eventual 2-13 to 0-14 loss, and feels that experience can help them ahead of the forthcoming re-match:
"The fact that the majority of lads will have played in an All-Ireland semi-final before will help. I wouldn't have said we were overawed by the occasion before, I think we did ourselves more justice in the semi-final in 2016 than the Munster Final.
"We took the fight to Mayo. I've often seen teams in that occasion just lay down and die and get overawed, but we didn't. In fairness, we took the challenge to Mayo.
"We made a very good start against Mayo, I think we were 0-6 to 0-3 up very early on. Obviously Mayo are Mayo and they fought back in the way that they do. Yeah, look, we're hoping to take that experience and use it going forward."