By Niall Gartland
TYRONE ladies manager Sean O’Kane says his side have no choice but to move on from their disappointing Ulster final defeat as they look ahead to their All-Ireland Intermediate Championship opener against Wicklow this Sunday (Lannleire 2pm).
While it hasn’t been straightforward season, they were still expected to retain their Ulster title against Antrim, who were appearing in their first provincial final at this level since 2015.
However the Saffrons were deserved 2-18 to 1-13 victors less than a fortnight ago and Tyrone must now turn their attention to the All-Ireland Intermediate Championship which commences this weekend.
The Red Hands appeared in back-to-back All-Ireland Intermediate finals in 2017 and 2018, making amends for defeat in 2017 with a resounding victory over Tipperary a year later.
However, a lot of the girls who lined out that day have retired from intercounty football and few expect them to go all the way in this year’s competition.
O’Kane said: “Maybe the defeat to Antrim is an indicator of where we’re at. There’s always big expectations in Tyrone because it’s such a proud footballing county so it’s disappointing but at the same time, we have been an Intermediate side in recent years. We’re going to try to move onto the next day and hopefully we’ll have an upturn in fortunes.”
One of the few positives from their defeat to Antrim was the performance of the experienced Grainne Rafferty, who played her heart out from start to finish and scored five points on the day.
“Grainne gave it everything for us. She’s a close friend of the Mulgrew girls who lost their mother in the lead up to the match, so she’s a credit. Another Killeeshil girl, Caitlin Campbell also lined out.”
Another positive was that St Macartan’s star Sláine McCarroll returned from injury to play much of the second half, scoring a point into the bargain.
O’Kane commented: “It’s good that we were able to give Sláine 20 or 30 minutes of game-time, she’s worked hard on getting back to fitness.
“We’ve had a bad run of injuries generally but that’s no excuse, Antrim were the est team. I know a lot of the Antrim players through the college, they’re a great bunch of girls and good luck to them.”