After wins over Monaghan, Down and Cavan in the early stages of the Ulster Ladies Minor Football Championship Tyrone will face Donegal at St Molaise’s Park Irvinestown on Saturday in the Ulster decider. The sides have met before this term with Donegal the winners, but little can be taken from that outing as both teams were already assured of the final berth at that stage.
In the past several years these squads have met in various grades and the honours are more or less even. However Donegal will start as favourites on Saturday. The unbelievable talent that is Gearldine McLaughlin gives the Tir Connaill girls the edge in this tie. A goal machine for club and county over the past year Mc Laughlin will miss the Inter Provincials to try and secure another Ulster title for her side. Tyrone are only too well aware of McLaughlin, as she almost single handedly sealed a senior national league win for Donegal over Tyrone at Drumragh earlier in the season.
Stopping her is key to Tyrone’s hopes and despite their very young squad joint manager Pius Fox says Tyrone are up for the challenge,
“We have a very young squad, I think almost twenty of the girls will be available next year again but they are in this final on merit and we are not just making up the numbers against Donegal. They are a good team and we have met them a few times at all levels. Our girls lost last time to them but we gave the squad players all a run and there wasn’t much in it. McLaughlin is a big threat but myself and Louise (Daly) feel we have the players who can handle her. She’s not alone though Donegal are strong all over the park and we must be at our best”
Being at their best may be difficult with several players carrying knocks into the final. Team captain Faoiltiarna Keenan has been receiving treatment for a strain while Louise Kelly is also a doubt. On the plus side however both Emma Collins and Terri McCusker scored goals in championship ties over the weekend and are returning to fitness at just the right time.
There’s plenty of experience in the Tyrone squad while several players have enjoyed success at under 16 level in 2010 under this same management team, who stepped up to their current role at the end of last year. The bulk of the squad played in the adult club football championship over the weekend and it appears all have come through unscathed leaving Fox and Daly to choose from a full strength squad.