Red-hot O'Neill fires Tyrone into All-Ireland semi-final
Tyrone roared into the semi-finals of the All-Ireland ladies intermediate football championship following an emphatic 4-16 to 1-10 victory over Leitrim at Carrick-on-Shannon yesterday.
It was ace scorer Niamh O'Neill who again stole the honours with a devastating solo burst that yielded 2-7 and erased any possibility of a late Leitrim flourish.
The Red Hands, with Christianne Hunter a solid force and goalkeeper Shannon Lynch in fine form, found their Connacht opponents difficult to contain in the first-half although they managed to hold a 2-8 to 1-6 lead at the break with O'Neill having already found the net.
But in the second-half the Red Hand girls revealed a greater degree of confidence and cohesion and with O'Neill in full flow they stormed through the final quarter to remain on course for the All-Ireland title.
While Tyrone's victory certainly portrays the ladies game in a good light, their victory celebrations have been tempered with realism according to club spokesman Paddy Hunter.
"We were not convincing or assured enough in the first-half but thankfully we were able to step up a gear after the break. Leitrim proved very dogged up until after the interval but we finished strongly and this gives us encouragement going forward although we know we have work to do," says Hunter.
But there was disappointment for Donegal in their senior semi-final against Mayo to whom they lost by 3-14 to 2-11.
The Kellys, Niamh and Grace, along with the vastly experienced Cora Staunton hit the net for Mayo after Donegal had taken an early lead with goals from Geraldine McLaughlin and Yvonne McMonagle.
But their 2-1 to 0-2 advantage at one stage in the first-half was to prove a false dawn as Mayo's pace and finishing power proved decisive.
Donegal manager Michael Naughton had hoped that his attack might have flourished but Mayo had their homework done, certainly in relation to curbing the influence of the normally lethal McLaughlin-McMonagle partnership.
Although they both hit the net they did not exert the overall scoring influence that they have been doing in recent games.
Donegal, indeed, had been hopeful of reaching the last four and perhaps reaching the All-Ireland final but Mayo's experience and guile were to serve them well with the inspirational Staunton at the core of their strategy.
Derry, too, suffered disappointment by losing 2-10 to 0-6 to Cork in their All-Ireland intermediate camogie quarter-final.
Karen Kielt tried to inspire the Oak Leaf side from midfield and landed five points from frees but Linda Collins, who scored 2-1, and Keeva McCarthy (0-5) along with Maeve McCarthy (0-2) proved too hot to handle in the Leesiders' attack.
Cork, who beat Down in their last outing, led by 1-3 to 0-3 at half-time by which stage Derry were still in contention but their defence was unable to contain the lively Cork attack as the match progressed
For Derry, this was a disappointing defeat as the team had been maturing this season and the feeling was that it would have benefitted by making further progress on their All-Ireland journey.
Instead, Cork are now the favourites to land the title at this level.
Meanwhile, in the All-Ireland senior camogie championship final Kilkenny will meet Cork.
Kilkenny proved too strong for Dublin in their semi-final at the week-end winning by 2-11 to 0-9 while Cork were fully extended by a gritty Galway outfit before eventually coming out on top by 2-9 to 1-9.