TYRONE LADIES make their long overdue return to the Ulster Senior Championship this Saturday afternoon facing the ultimate acid test.
A Donegal team, chasing three provincial crowns on the spin, stand in their path at Kingspan Breffni Park, the match forming the first part of the double header in the Cavan venue ahead of the men’s much anticipated Ulster SFC semi-final blockbuster.
The Red Hand girls have proved their worth as one of the top Intermediate teams in the land over the past two seasons, reaching successive All-Ireland Finals at Croke Park, and having achieved national glory at that level last Autumn they are now back dining at the top table.
While acknowledging that it will be a tough ask to topple Donegal this weekend, Tyrone manager Gerry Moane insists that this fixture represents the sort of test his charges have been yearning for.
“Donegal are going for three Ulster titles in a row so they are a very consistent side. At the start of this season they put Dublin to the sword in the league so you have to give them proper respect because they are a serious team.
“But this is where you want to play your football on the big days. There is going to be a massive crowd on Saturday and that should hopefully drive the girls on. They have the experience now of the big days as well so that won’t faze them.
“It’s a big challenge but they are looking forward to it. We were regraded to Intermediate a few years ago but we have got ourselves back up by winning the All-Ireland, racking up some massive scores in the process in the Championship. We were in a good place to step up to senior football and that’s where we need to be.”
Tyrone had a solid enough campaign in Division Two of the league during the spring, with the likes of Slaine McCarroll, Niamh O’Neill, Emma Jane Gervin and Neamh Woods spearheading their challenge, but ultimately missed out on promotion because of painful defeats to Armagh and Wexford.
They wrapped up their programme with an encouraging victory over Kerry, showing the type of consistency and clinical prowess which Moane hopes they will carry onto the Championship arena.
“We finished up on a high in the league. Ideally we would have liked to reach the league semi-finals but we didn’t make it.
“We lost a few games for various reasons, the main one not taking our chances which has been our Achilles heel of late. Our conversion rate hasn’t been good enough and that came back to bite us in the league.
“Things improved as we went on. The Kerry game was one of the best performances I seen during my tenure. That had been coming.
“The big thing in football is that if you weren’t creating the chances you would be seriously worried. We are creating around thirty scoring opportunities a game so you want to get your conversion rate to be around 60 per cent plus.
“Unfortunately there was games where we were well below that and that was disappointing. On the day we need to be more clinical and that was the case against Kerry.
“Our defensive system is working well and we conceded less in the league than any other team in our division but it was our scoring which let us down.”