Ulster Intermediate Football Championship semi-final
Emyvale Saturday 7pm
Tyrone V Fermanagh
Fermanagh man Gerry Moane returned to the managers hotseat in Tyrone just a matter of days before the start of what turned out to be a disappointing national league campaign. Moane had been here before but opted to walk away when players failed to commit after a decent enough campaign.
In the years since Paudge Quinn, Brian Magee and Tiffy Quinn were on board ,they tried to reinvigorate the O’Neill county fortunes but the days of beating Cork and Kerry on route to an all Ireland final are well in the past, the bulk of that squad are gone and now it’s up to the young guns to carry Tyrone’s hope’s into the unknown territory of the intermediate football championship.
Tyrone were drawn against Fermanagh in the semi-final, the winners will go to the final while the losers will have a second bite of the cherry against Down later in June. For Tyrone and Moane they will want a direct route, no messing about with a second chance Tyrone will want to see off the Erne challenge at St Tiernach’s Park on Saturday evening.
The game has been switched from Clones to Emyvale, that matters little.
“ A pitch is a pitch, we would love to see a big crowd but it won’t be a massive atmosphere, we will be able to focus on our own game, yes we have players who have played there before but this is new ground for everyone in the county, this is a new competition and we have to be focused”
The Tyrone build up has been good, they enjoyed a couple of challenge game wins while in terms of training the players have put in some real hard work ahead of the Fermanagh clash. The fact that players have all come through some tough club league rounds virtually unscathed has also been a bonus.
Shannon Quinn, Emma Hegarty and Christiane Hunter are injury doubts though for Moane and coach Brendan McLaughlin ahead of Saturday’s short hop to meet their neighbour’s . It’s unlikely they will miss the game and Tyrone are coming into this Intermediate championship very determined to make an impression in this their debut campaign.
There are new teams ahead for Tyrone, fourteen sides, three from Ulster, three from Connacht, five from Leinster and three Munster counties make up the all Ireland series with Fermanagh the reigning Ulster champions. Tyrone captain Neamh Woods is one of the more experienced players in the current squad but admits this new grade will be an exciting new challenge.
“ We wouldn’t have played Fermanagh competitively but certainly in challenge games we would have met but this will be something different for us, we won’t be taking anything for granted , they are the champions and we know they have plenty of quality footballers, they, like ourselves have had a difficult league campaign so both of us will hoping to get up and running in the championship”
Moane will be well aware of the Erne outfit, yes they had a poor league campaign and like Tyrone they have lost a lot of the household names but they are a good championship side. Tyrone duo Paddy Fox and Malachy Coyle had taken control of Fermanagh at the start of the year but before the end of the league season they were gone, so it may be fair to say that their build up may not have been the best. Again though Moane and Strabane man McLaughlin will not worry about that
“We have been happy with the way our girls have worked, they have put in the effort and apart from a couple of knocks we go into Saturday with plenty of quality available to us” admitted Moane
There has been an influx of new players and it is perhaps something that could have been done over the past few seasons, young players are making their presence felt and McLaughlin is delighted to say that there’s a real buzz in the camp.
“ I didn’t think at the start of the year that I would be able to say that we have a real competition for places now, it’s great to see and I really feel we have a great mix of youth and experienced players in the squad, they have made up for lost time and are now really buzzing”
For Tyrone the step to Intermediate football was not universally welcomed, a handful of players opted out and there were those who felt the move would be detrimental to the footballing fortunes of the county, not so admitted the captain and the manager,
“It was the only way for this team to develop and evolve as a team, you can’t keep going out and getting beat week in week out, the facts and figures were there, Tyrone were just not able to compete at senior level at the minute. Eleven losses from seventeen championship games since 2011 is the reality and while it may have been a difficult call it was the best option to allow this great group to establish themselves “ explained Moane who also said it was a move that didn’t affect other counties,
“ Donegal and Armagh came through that route, the Armagh side dropped down and look at them now, Ulster senior champions, it will afford us real time and make a fist of things for the future and a return to senior ranks”
Neamh Woods will lead the Tyrone side on Saturday , it’s expected the Drumragh stalwart will start in Midfield, her dominance in that position in the past could well be key although if fit Shannon Quinn may also step into that role. There has been a real competition for the goalkeeping berth, Shannon Lynch and Laura Kane are certainly fine custodians while the defence has been one of the settled units although it’s expected manager Moane could reshuffle things around the likes of Christiane Hunter, Tori McLaughlin and Karen Quinn .
The battle for places in the front six could well be interesting, such is the competition anyone of ten players could get a spot, Niamh O’Neill, Emma Hegarty and the exciting Emma Smyth would be shoe in’s with the likes of minor star Maria Canavan and Cara McCrossan looking likely to play some role.
A new era in Tyrone football is about to dawn and the side are certainly up for the battle.
Ulster Intermediate Football Championship semi-final