Saturday sees the start of another Ulster ladies campaign. Monaghan and Armagh once again start as favourites while for Tyrone expectations may be more muted, the old adage one game at a time is very much the mantra but don’t be fooled. Despite a league campaign that saw just one victory recorded and top flight status secured for another term by the skin of their teeth Tyrone go into this year’s Ulster senior championship well prepared and looking sharp but what are the realistic aims of this new look bunch of girls.
So many of the household names no longer wear the Tyrone shirt and there are plenty of new faces lining up to play Cavan at Brewster Park on Saturday, a handful of girls opted not to play while others jumped ship and headed stateside once the national league campaign ended. In the interim then Tyrone have been working away under the guidance of Christopher “Tiffy” Quinn and Galbally’s Tony McVeigh at Garvaghey.
“ To their credit the girls we have to select from this weekend have worked hard, you can’t take that away from them, they are a unit and will stand up for one another, it may not have been such an easy league campaign but the championships different and we are well aware it will be difficult but we know we have the quality in this squad” admitted McVeigh this week as he put the finishing touches to preparations for Saturdays trip to Enniskillen.
The game on Saturday which throws in at 1pm is part of a double bill with Donegal and Down up next, the winners will meet in the semi-final but for Tyrone they face a tricky outing against a Cavan side buoyed up by a tremendous league run. Under Conor Barry the Breffni side, previously on an upward turn are really buzzing, the Arva native who oversaw the fortunes of Dublin’s minor ladies for the past two seasons before stepping into the Cavan roll at the end of last year is hands on in every aspect of ladies gaelic football in the county and oversees a lot of what is going on day to day. That approach, that involvement and structure is proving successful at all levels as the Tyrone minors found out as the Breffni side clinched the Ulster minor crown. The young Dublin based teacher though is well aware that the meeting with Tyrone in the senior championship is a step up although he has plenty of quality and experience to call upon.
Players such as veteran Donna English, Roisin O’Keefe, Aishling Doonan and Sarah Murray have been key to the Cavan sides step up from intermediate and leaves them as potential challengers to the rise of Armagh and Monaghan in recent years. Whether they have enough in the tank to ease past Tyrone remains to be seen.
Cavan won six of their eight games in the second tier missing out on promotion after a play-off and they will come into this game at Enniskillen full of confidence that they can overturn the more experienced Tyrone, even if they are not saying it openly.
For Tyrone it’s another step on the road to recovery, a step for them on the return to the dizzy heights of Ulster success and national recognition, Respect really ,while Armagh and Monaghan stride on up the ladder Tyrone, it could be said have stalled, that may be a fair assumption but some of the league performances did not match the end results and there were plenty of positives despite what looked like on paper a poor league campaign.
“It’s all about results” explained joint manager McVeigh “ We had some decent performances in the league but the results didn’t reflect that, it is a results business but the signs were encouraging for us through the league season, I hope we can build on that in the championship”
Tyrone were also hampered by injuries to Shannon Quinn and Emma Hegarty through the league season but as they return to full fitness remarkably Tori McLaughlin has opted for a Summer in the States , the Strabane defender like the absent Laura McGillion were key components of the side in recent seasons. That all said several players have now firmly established themselves in the set up.
Ardboe pair Karen Quinn and Clare Muldoon have worked hard and have brought a new bite to the defence Christiane Hunter, Zoe Loughran and Neamh O’Neill have impressed with Cathy Donnelly back to her sharpest best after an ongoing ankle problem. Sadly Emma Smyth requires surgery on a hand injury and will miss most of the championship season for club and county.By Paddy Fri 19th Jun