Tyrone on the verge of history


Tyrone on the verge of history



Tyrones lady footballers are on the verge of a history making
appearance in the all Ireland senior football final on September
23rd, firstly though Jimmy McCloughans brave warriors will have
to see off the challenge of Mayo. Kingspan Breffni Park will play
host to the semi-final this Saturday evening and Tyrone will have
happy memories of the venue after a win against Sligo there pushed
them through to the quarter final draw and in turn a win against
Armagh. Some feel that the win over the Ulster champions may have
been Tyrones “all Ireland” not so says the genial Tyrone manager
who took over the role just nine months ago. Jimmy McCloughan,
after all has been in this position before albeit with Tyrones
vocational footballers, two all Ireland titles later and four
all Ireland semi-finals experienced McCloughan remains positive.
“ Yes I have heard some pundits say that the win over Armagh was
as good as it gets for this team, I don’t agree, the victory over
Armagh was just another stepping stone for Tyrone, the girls are
so determined and I really feel that we can go on, Croke Park
beckons, but I know how hard this semi-final is going to be”

Indeed there’s no doubting the enormity of the task that lies
ahead of Tyrone this Saturday as they face the Cora Staunton led
Mayo. A place in the all Ireland final against the three in a
row chasing Cork is the only prize on offer to Jimmy McCloughans
side but what a prize that could prove to be. Not only would a
victory, once again against a fancied opposition give the O’Neill
county side a first senior final appearance, but it would signal
a massive revival in the fortunes of ladies football in the county.
Tyrone have witnessed something of a spiritual like revival since
the Ulster final, a constant upward spiral of improvement, commitment
like never before from the hardest working bunch of lady footballers
in the country and certainty they have done everything they can
do to try and reach a first senior final. For just a handful of
the players the experience of losing in the last all Ireland semi-final
is still fresh in the memory.

Mayo too, it was back in 2000 and as is the case now it’s a Connacht
side that is inspired by the talented workhorse Cora Staunton.
Scoring 3-6 in that outing at Croke Park Staunton almost single
handedly tore the heart out of Tyrone’s brave challenge. On that
occasion it was a first appearance in the last four for the Ulster
senior champions, the first Ulster senior champions after a win
over Monaghan. Led by Lisa McGirr Tyrone were caught in the last
quarter and thus It ended with a convincing Mayo victory. Little
did the Tyrone players believe, that it would be some seven years
and an almost completely different group of players that would
be back in the semi-final, and facing the task of trying to turn
over Mayo. Injuries have been a major headache for manager McCloughan,
Eimear Teague suffered knee damage in the group game against Donegal
while the impressive Neamh Woods broke her collarbone as Tyrone
saw off Armagh last time out. Add to that the absence of Marie
Gallagher and the early withdrawals of Sarah Connolly and Errigal
team-mate Selina Oguz, McCloughan has certainly had some changes
to think about. Granted the Errigal duo were out of the equation
several weeks ago but the loss of Woods and Teague has meant a
reshuffle at the back, already in the mix is Sinead McLaughlin
and Carol McClinchey while Christiane Hunter, Claire Donnelly
and Grace Park remain on standby should any further injuries crop
up. Kellie Meehan done sterling work against Armagh after Neamh
Wood’s exit and its expected the Fintona man will offer Meehan
a starting berth in Cavan.

Two big game players though nestle in the Tyrone defence, and
their performances on Saturday could put Tyrone on route to an
historic final appearance. Full back Maura Kelly, currently carrying
a “ bit of a knock” and the irrepresable Lynda Donnelly will have
their work cut out, but the duo are two of Tyrones most experienced
performers and they have certainly not been found wanting in the
championship so far. The manager has been bolstered by a steady
midfield pairing that have really come into their own in the past
two months, ,Lucy Meehan and Trillicks Sarah Donnelly have put
in some great displays and in that regard the manager should have
no worries, while up front he has discovered the deadliest forward
unit in the ladies game. For pace, accuracy and that cutting edge
of sheer deadliness in front of goals look no further than the
Donnelly’s, Joline and Cathy and Tyrones own “Gem” Gemma Begley.
The forwards have been the talking point for many this term and
Begley, well her 6-13 in the group and knock-out stages to date,
keeps her in the running for the golden boot and with two player
of the match awards on the mantle piece, the Carrickmore full
forward, who just for good measure was equally deadly in the club
championship last week, looks a dead cert for an all star.

There’s no talk though of all stars in this Tyrone camp as the
build up continues, its all very positive though, the players
says Jimmy McCloughan have put in the effort and he feels that
they can deliver, “I have to be honest, the girls have put in
the work since last November when we took over, we brought in
young girls, we gave everyone the chance and they have all earned
their place on the squad, we have no stars here its all for one
another and that has been a key to how far we have come so far,
when we beat Armagh in the quarter final the excitement was there
for all to see but since then its been back to work and we haven’t
taken our eye of the ball since, the focus has been on Mayo and
getting past them” McCloughan will hear no talk about the final
either, it’s only the next game to deal with and that happens
to be Mayo. In March Mayo drove home there dominance as they beat
Tyrone 3-9 to 0-3, but a lot has changed since then says McCloughan,
“ When we played Mayo at home, we were missing several key players,
they had a full squad and were playing as a unit, we were still
working with the new players and getting to know them, theres
been vast improvement in our play and everything that goes with
that, but we have to face the fact that Mayo will start as favourites”

While the Mayo defence held the Tyrone attack to three points
at Fintona, its unlikely that this will be the case on Saturday.
So an historic occasion for Tyrone on Saturday evening and the
county board and indeed the players and management have called
on the support to come out enbloc. “ This is a great opportunity
for the Tyrone support to make the effort to come out and watch
an all Ireland semi-final, its only a short hop to Breffni Park
and it would be a massive boost to see a large turnout of Tyrone
support” enthused Tyrone chairperson Anne Marie Meehan

Her sentiments were echoed by the sides manager Jimmy McCloughan,
“ The effort has been made by all the girls, they richly deserve
to be here but equally they deserve the backing of all Tyrone
football supporters” Throw in on Saturday night is 7pm, the games
live on TG4 and local radio station Q101 but its evident that
the Tyrone support should turn out and give the team its backing,
an all Ireland final beckons so too does the hand of history.





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