Ladies Football: We can't take Meath for granted says Tyrone goalkeeper Shannon Lynch
TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship Final
TYRONE must not take their All-Ireland final opponents Meath for granted on Sunday says goalkeeper Shannon Lynch, who believes there are striking similarities between the two counties who will fight it out for a place back in senior championship football.
The Red Hands have been outright favourites for intermediate honours from the beginning of this year's championship and are determined to go one step further than 12 months ago when they lost to Tipperary in last September's decider.
They ply their league trade in the extremely competitive division two with senior teams like Armagh, Cavan and Tipperary.
Their opponents Meath are a divison lower, missing out on promotion to the second tier this year after defeat to Wexford in the division three final. However, just two years ago they were a senior championship team and they will have looked to Tipperary's achievements in recent years, coming from same division to the top table in both league and championship football, albeit they were relegated back to intermediate this year, for inspiration.
As Lynch acknowledges, there are striking similarities between the teams and Meath being a division three team has no bearing whatsoever on what awaits Tyrone in Croke Park at 1.45pm on Sunday.
"They will be happy enough coming in as underdogs," said Lynch who has made her county debut in 2010 and stood between the posts in the senior All-Ireland final loss to Dublin that year.
"Look at Tipperary last year - they proved that league divisions don’t stand for much in championship. Championship football is a different game and Meath coming in on the back of being in division three, well people are just expecting a division two team, when you put it down on paper, to come out.
"That 'nothing to lose' is a dangerous position when you have a team up against you. We have faced Meath down through the years and it has never been an easy game They are a good side, they are well drilled and disciplined and they have a forward line with space and time will do damage," she added.
Tyrone made the difficult decision to regrade to intermediate after the 2015 senior campaign while Meath followed suit a year later, in 2016, a year which also saw Tyrone relegated to division one and Meath relegated to division three.
There has been a lot of hard work by both counties in the rebuilding process, which has culminated in them being the last two intermediate teams of 2018 standing.
Tyrone boss Gerry Moane in the last three years has brought a lot of younger players on board with 22 of the 36 strong squad aged between 18 and 22 - and 10 of those are still teenagers.with seven having made appearances in this year's championship.
Add in the experience of Gemma Begley who made her county debut in 2004, captain Neamh Woods who has been playing for Tyrone since 2006, Christiane Hunter who came on board a year later, Aisling O'Kane in 2009, Lynch in 2010 and Emma Hegarty in 2011 and Moane has the perfect balance of youth and experience.
But Meath too have travelled a similar path and have built a team that has its own mix of youth and experience.
"We are both very similar in that we do have that mixture of youth and experience," said Lynch who has made three appearances in the championship this year, two starts in the All-Ireland series and as a sub against Sligo in the semi-final to stand in for Laura Kane who was sin binned.
"They were in the same boat, moving down and they are rebuildling and have shown they are a very strong side.
"They have players who have the experience of playing senior football down through the years, and they have young players coming through too, and their semi-final against Roscommon proved that.
"We are the same, in that we have youth coming through with good experience from club and school football and then we have the balance of people who have been here that bit longer. When you weigh it all up there is nothing between the two of us.
"We were playing division one for such a long time, playing in division two is not easy and it has been a rebuilding from there. Each year you set out, you go out to win an All-Ireland ultimately but you know it might not happen in your first or second year.
"This is our third year now and we are in another All-Ireland final but for us that is not enough.
"We want to return to senior football, and division one. To get back to senior championship would be massive. Coming off the back of last year we said the only way to go one step further is to win it, otherwise we are in the same position we were."