Tyrone appear to have gained a head start on opponents Dublin in advance of tomorrow’s All-Ireland Ladies senior football championship final at Croke Park that could yet help to take them to the title.
While the Red Hands can expect the vocal encouragement of thousands of fans given the unprecedented demand for tickets within the O’Neill County, the Dubs followers have been slow to put their hands into their purses and pockets — so much so indeed that the county’s men’s football team boss Pat Gilroy and star player Bernard Brogan have been roped in to fire out a message of encouragement to supporters.
But while Tyrone captain Sinead McLaughlin is delighted that her team will enjoy tremendous backing during what is certain to be a frenetic contest, she acknowledges that this will be only one element in their blueprint for victory.
“I appreciate the fans’ enthusiasm of course but I know that it is up to us as players to deliver a quality performance.
“We were not all that happy with our form in the Ulster Championship although subsequently we showed a big improvement particularly against Cork in the All Ireland quarter-final.
“Now we will have to step up even further because we know that the Dublin girls will be very comfortable in Croke Park irrespective of the extent of the following that they will have with them,” says McLaughlin.
Having spent 10 years in the Tyrone side, she knows better than most just what will be required for victory.
“We will have to mark very tightly because Dublin have some very fast, creative players who can take scores.
“We certainly do not want to find ourselves chasing the game,” says the Drumragh club member.
While skipper McLaughlin will supervise defensive operations, Gemma Begley can again inspire the Tyrone attack in which Catriona McGahon, Nina Murphy, Lynda Donnelly and Aishling O’Kane can be key players.
Begley, who has won a shoal of individual honours in ladies football, has the capacity to extend her superb scoring record but expects Dublin to be well-organised.
“While we were very glad to get the better of Kerry after a replay at the semi-final stage we know that, like ourselves, Dublin will be very hungry for the title,” says Carrickmore player Begley.
Dublin boss Jackie McGill has brought in the experienced Maria Kavanagh at corner-back to bolster a full-back line that includes Avril Cluxton, sister of the Dublin men’s goalkeeper Stephen Cluxton.
This in itself is an obvious measure of the respect that the Dubs have for the Red Hands attacking division — but tomorrow the big Tyrone support will nonetheless be hoping that their team’s forwards will rise to the occasion in style.