After a difficult close season Tyrone will step back into the Bord Gáis Energy National football league this Sunday against Mayo. The new management duo of Colm Donnelly and Niall Colton have had little time to prepare their charges for what could be a tricky division one opener. Tyrone have reached the all Ireland semi-final over the past two seasons and just missed out in a play-off for the national league play-offs last term,but will enter 2009 with a very new look squad.Donnelly and Colton have taken the reigns of the county senior squad becoming the fourth incumbents to the post in three years, Paddy Fox opting to remain in club management, he had replaced Michaela O’Neill who stood down after the all Ireland loss. Tyrone will start then perhaps behind some other counties in terms of preparation for what will be a very difficult league campaign however the Dromore duo have been quick to point out that the bulk of the squad that have been together since just after Christmas are plying their trade with the Universities in the build up to the Dowd cup and that the other players will soon be up to speed.

With games against Mayo, Laois, Donegal Kerry and Armagh to look forward to, the new Tyrone management have still set out their stall, retaining top flight status and qualifying for the last four is certainly the aim although there’s no doubting the season ahead will be one of transition.

A host of the experienced players have indicated that they have called time on their inter county careers, veteran forward Alish Gormley possibly the most notable absentee for the national league. Others are considering the future and there’s injury issues with several other players. It’s an opportunity for some of the counties most promising young talent then to stake their claim.

Last season saw a small influx of players from the successful Ulster minor winning squad of 2007 and more of that squad as well as the all Ireland minor finalists of 2008 will get their chance this term.

The successful Jordanstown freshers squad that picked up the all Ireland sevens crown on Friday last can boast four of that squad in County colours, skipper Roisin Rafferty, Sinead McVeigh , Christiane Hunter and Laura McGillion. The experienced Maura Kelly, although carrying injury like Carol McGlinchey are included as is Sligo IT and Macartans ace Lynda Donnelly. All star Niamh Woods, Gemma Begley, Eimear Teague, Sarah Donnelly and veteran forward Catriona McGahan all return again. There’s a call up too for promising Cappagh defender Naomi McAnulla who was player of the match in last years all Ireland schools junior A final,a big week in the McAnulla household with brother Jason claiming a place in Mickey Hartes Tyrone squad.

While Tyrone are set to carry a bigger than usual panel, the door remains open for others, with the management team confirming that other players could be added. There’s some twenty weeks until the Ulster semi-final encounter with Armagh and the build up has already started, the national league campaign will be a learning curve for players and managers alike.

Strabane’s the venue this Sunday (2pm) as Tyrone welcome the Connaught side backboned by the all Ireland club champions Carnacorn. Cora Staunton as always the ace up front for Mayo, she returned to the squad in the closing stages of the all Ireland championships but remains unsure of her commitment for the national league. Whether or not Staunton is in the actual selection Mayo will remain a major threat to this new look Tyrone. The O’Neill county selection could well feature several new faces, there will be plenty of competition for places in the coming national league series. Laois up next after the break for the universities football, followed by Kerry, Donegal and old rivals Armagh. When that programme is completed the new management team and the Tyrone followers will certainly have a better take on what 2009 has in store.


A University of Ulster Jordanstown side backboned by some of Tyrones most promising talent claimed the all Ireland Freshers sevens title last Friday.No fewer than five Tyrone girls were in the side that saw of the cream of University freshers talent in difficult conditions . Captained by Carrickmores Roisin Rafferty the Jordanstown side with the Ulster title already sewn up faced stiff opposition in the group stages in Athlone but were stunning, eventually claiming the national honours.

There was plenty of Tyrone and Ulster interest with their final opponents too, DCU, boasted Shannon Quinn, Sarah Connolly and Ciara McAnespie .

The Ulster champions claimed a five point victory in a very keenly contested decider in the end 5-5 to 2-9 the final score in favour of the local side. There were outstanding displays from the Tyrone players on show. A solid display from Laura McGillion and Rafferty, great fielding and defending from Christiane Hunter, steady goalkeeping and distribution from Ardboes Sinead McVeigh and another good performance from Eadoin Devine.

Next up for the Jordanstown is the Dowd cup with several players from this successful sevens squad involved in the senior side for the prestigious competition. Indeed the five have all been named in the Tyrone senior squad for the forthcomng Bord Gáis Energy National football league.

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