Tyrone’s senior ladies will face the biggest test of the season to date on Saturday evening when Martina Dillon’s side face the Leinster champions Laois at Birr for a place in the TG4 All Ireland semi-final.
A good win over Tipperary last Saturday in Mullingar sealed Tyrone’s place in the quarter final but last Saturday’s top scorer Gemma Begley admits it will be a tough test,
“We certainly expect Laois to be very hard to beat, they are the Leinster champions after all and I am sure they will be well prepared for us. Dublin had been hotly tipped to come out of the Province but Laois came out on top, it’s a measure of the quality and experience they have”
Begley hit a very good 1-7 against Tipperary as Tyrone turned in a decent second half display. Martina Dillon’s side though looked to always have too much for Tipp, leading 0-10 to 0-5 at the break after a whirlwind start that saw the impressive Catriona McGahan hit a point in the opening twenty seconds.
Both sides traded early points and the Munster side threatened briefly with the Tyrone defence stretched at times to contain Trisha Hickey and Mairead Morrissey. It was however just a threat with Maura Kelly and Eimear Teague settling things down.
Early second half goals from Gemma Begley and Cathy Donnelly eased any worries and Tyrone opened a gap that was never going to be closed. Neamh Woods, Emma Conlon and Ashling O’Kane added points with substitutes Christiane Hunter and Sarah Connolly also on target with points as Tyrone pulled away from their now well beaten opponents.
Tipperary did have a final flourish, Tyrone keeper Shannon Lynch denied Hickey from point blank range before Edel Hanley nipped in for a goal, all too little too late though as Tyrone advanced. Forward Begley happy to progress,
“It was a tricky enough tie for us at the weekend. Tipperary were up for the game and we had to be careful, thankfully we were able to step it up a gear and get the scores to take us through”
Tyrone played well in the second half but Begley who hit 1-4 against Laois at Beragh when the sides met in the national league admits Tyrone must improve
“I think we are well aware that we must take it to another level if we are to win on Saturday. Laois are big and physical and they have improved since we played them in the league, but to be honest we have also improved and we have the right mix. We can only do our best and hope we can get the win, we are confident we can reach another semi-final”
In that league tie Tyrone lost 2-12 to 2-6 on a wet day in Beragh, for whatever reason, Tyrone who had been very much in touch after trailing 2-2 to 0-4 capitulated in the final ten minutes despite leading 2-6 to 1-7. Veteran Tracey Lawlor allowed to orchestrate a comfortable six point win.
The championship is a different matter and Laois have spoilt the Tyrone party in the past. Once again the Leinster side will go into the live televised clash as favourites but Dillon’s side have an air of confidence and certainly caused the Laois defence problems in their last meeting. The scoring prowess of Begley, The Donnellys Cathy and Joline and of course veteran Catriona McGahan will give Tyrone the attacking edge while the return of Shannon Quinn continues to give the Tyrone management plenty of midfield and defensive options.
The Tyrone under 16s face Cork in the all Ireland under 16 shield semi-final this weekend, remarkably LGFA officials have asked Tyrone to travel to Birr two days on the bounce with the under 16 tie fixed for Sunday at 1.30. Tyrone chairman Martin Conway confirmed Tyrone had appealed to Croke Park to have a common sense approach and play the Under 16 tie on the Saturday at 1.30 in the Offaly venue. That fixture was actually issued as an official fixture earlier this week but with the Sunday date also included. Confusion reigns once again then in ladies national football fixtures but all the u-16s management can do is prepare for what will be a very tough task against the Munster side. Tyrone lost heavily in the Ulster final but will go into the weekend game with a point to prove after failing to perform against Monaghan.