Rafferty looking to go one step further

All-Ireland Ladies IFC quarter-final
Kildare v Tyrone
Sunday, Venue: Manguard Park, 1pm

By Shaun Casey

TYRONE are aiming to go one step further than last year and reach the last four of the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship when they take on Kildare on Sunday afternoon.

Twelve months ago, it was another Leinster opponent that ended the Red Hands journey as Wexford proved too strong on the day, winning by five points in the end.

It was a campaign that ended in disappointment for Sean O’Kane’s ladies, but Tyrone have carried some of their attacking traits into this season.

Across three championship games in 2022, including that quarter final clash with Wexford, Tyrone rattled off ten goals.

This year, they’ve reached the same tally of three-pointers in the same number of games having galloped through the group unbeaten.

Tyrone earned two wins over Wicklow and Offaly in the opening two rounds to kickstart their championship campaign while a late Grainne Rafferty goal against Clare the last day out earned her side a draw and protected their unbeaten streak.

“No, it is not really something we focus on (in training),” said Rafferty on Tyrone’s exceptional goalscoring record. “We have just been told that if the chance is there, take it. I suppose it is good to see that we are creating those chances and taking them when they do come.”

Momentum is key in every sport and while Tyrone have been in good form of late, their opponents this weekend, Kildare, only know how to win.

The Lilywhites have tasted defeat just once this season, in the league, on the way to securing the Division Three title with an extra time victory over Clare and guaranteeing promotion.

That momentum carried through to the championship and Kildare, who were also crowned Leinster champions, saw off Leitrim and Louth in the group stages.

“Kildare have been in great form this year and have great momentum behind them having won both the Division Three league title and the Leinster championship as well,” added Rafferty. “They have strong players across the field so it will be a tough challenge for us.”

Kildare will enjoy the comforts of home advantage, with the game taking place in Manguard Park, Nass, a spot where they’ve played twice this season. Both those outings took place in the league and ended with mixed results, as they easily overpowered Longford by 22-point before faltering against the Wee County in round four by the minimum of margins, the only game they’ve lost all year.

So, that may fill Tyrone will some confidence, and Rafferty hopes that they can lean on some of their away experiences during the league to help them overcome Sunday’s challenge and progress to the semi-finals of the All-Ireland series.

“Kildare getting a home fixture could definitely help them, with us having to travel and in terms of support,” added the Killeeshil woman.

“However, we had some good performances when we had away games during the league so hopefully, we can carry some of that form into Sunday’s game.”

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