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Begley is homing in on All-Ireland title joy


Big prize: Tyrone Ladies captain Neamh Woods (left) and Meath Ladies skipper Niamh O’Sullivan at Croke Park ahead of final
Big prize: Tyrone Ladies captain Neamh Woods (left) and Meath Ladies skipper Niamh O’Sullivan at Croke Park ahead of final

By John Campbell

When the Gaelic Players Association launched its robust 'Gaelic Voices for Change' campaign towards the end of last year, long-serving Tyrone ladies footballer Gemma Begley was in the vanguard of the campaign.

It was through the efforts of Carrickmore club member Begley and her colleagues that a spotlight was focused on the plight of the homeless in the country as a whole and resulted in much-needed funds being raised for this worthy cause.

"Our aim then was to try and help make a difference. We want to give support where we can on an ongoing basis, particularly to those who are homeless and sleeping rough," explains Begley.

"We felt then by making the wider GAA membership aware of the seriousness of problems this might help precipitate solutions to those problems and it certainly helped in this context."

Right now, though, Begley, a busy project manager, is strongly focused on Tyrone's drive for glory when they face Meath in the All-Ireland Intermediate Ladies Football final at Croke Park on Sunday (1.45pm).

Having tasted defeat in last year's decider, the Red Hand girls are anxious to atone for that slip-up but Begley is wary as the team approaches their mission against a Meath side that has looked impressive and boasts a superb finisher in Stacey Grimes.

"We like to think we have built on the progress that we made last year," says Begley. "In terms of putting sustainable structures in place, this past couple of years has been a fantastic learning curve. Hopefully we can top things off with a win on Sunday."

Begley and skipper Neamh Woods are the two oldest members of the side which is comprised in the main of players in the 19 to 21 age group.

"Such players have still to come into their prime so these are exciting times for the side as a whole," declares Begley.

"Hopefully all the experience they are acquiring right now will stand to them and help to give them great careers in the sport. We're all raring to go because now is the time of year in which you want to be playing.

"Meath probably did not do themselves justice last year but they are still a brilliant team in my book," insists Begley.

"They are very organised, superbly fit and well disciplined so we know that we are going to be right up against it. They beat Roscommon in their semi-final rather convincingly."

Shannon Lynch, Joanne Barrett, Christiane Hunter, Aine Canavan, Chloe McCaffrey and Lycrecia Quinn are other key members of a Tyrone side intent on coming good this time out.

Last year's failure left the players harbouring a deep sense of hurt and frustration and there is a strong resolve to put Tyrone firmly on the camogie map.

Defender Christiane Hunter perhaps best articulates the team's determination when she says: "We have our hearts set on winning. We felt we let ourselves down last year."

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