Ladies National Football League Division Two
Tyrone v Wexford
Sunday, Healy Park, 2pm
By Paddy Hunter
EVEN after a heavy defeat in Kerry two weeks ago, Tyrone remain in the Lidl National Football League Division Two title race.
And while Red Hand forward Niamh O’Neill admits that reverse was a set-back, she and her teammates are using it as motivation – as if any more was needed – to seal a top-two finish.
Tyrone are sixth in the table but remarkably they are just three points shy of second spot, such is the tight nature of a very tough division.
Gerry Moane set his sights on promotion and with games against Monaghan and Cavan to come after this weekend’s return home against Wexford, the Red Hands still harbour hopes that they can secure that final berth – albeit with the help of other results.
Tyrone return to action at Healy Park this Sunday against a pointless Wexford, who make the trip north destined for the drop through the trap door.
“We all know that the things we are doing wrong are in our control to fix and we are looking forward to playing Wexford and will be aiming to respond positively following the disappointment of the Kerry game,” explained Belfast-based planning official O’Neill.
“Wexford are a tough team, which they showed last year when we travelled down to Enniscorthy and we will definitely be trying our best to turn the result in our favour this time around.”
The loss to Kerry wasn’t as clear-cut as the final scoreline would suggest.
With five minutes to go Tyrone found themselves four points down and still very much still in the hunt.
Tyrone hit the woodwork and the Kerry ’keeper was on hand to deny O’Neill and the visiting attack. A dubious penalty that O’Muirahertagh converted and a late goal eased the Kingdom clear.
O’Neill felt it was a tough outing but not a season wrecker: “Disappointing, yes, in our overall performance but we did show patches of what we were capable of in the game,” she observed.
“It just wasn’t consistent for the 60 minutes. We just gave ourselves too much to do.
“Obviously, when you travel that far you want to get a result but it just wasn’t to be.”
O’Neill has led the Tyrone attack well this season and at just 23 years of age, she certainly seems to be enjoying that responsibility, scoring 3-11 already this campaign.
“I’m enjoying it, we have a great group with Tyrone and everyone has ambition to push on to compete with the top tier of ladies football, it’s a great environment to be in,” she said.
“Of course, some results haven’t gone our way but it’s early days and there’s plenty of football still to be played.”
In attack Grainne Rafferty has made a return while Caitlan Kelly, Chloe McCaffrey and Siobhan Sheerin have all been playing their part up front. Sheerin though could miss the rest of the league after suffering a hamstring injury at the weekend.
Starting this week with Wexford, Tyrone need a win and the game can’t come quick enough for O’Neill and Tyrone, who are eager to get going again.
“I hate to give the cliché, but we are very much taking it one game at a time, so our focus at the moment is on Wexford and then we can look to the next two games,” she added.
“Obviously every game we play, we want to win and that’s what our aim will be in the coming weeks and we’ll see where that leaves us.”