Favourites Tyrone taking nothing for granted in Monaghan semi-final insists Maria Canavan

Red Hands were promoted to top flight after reaching Division Two decider

Maria Canavan
Tyrone forward Maria Canavan scored 6-31 during their Division Two campaign, which culminated in promotion (Ray McManus / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

Maria Canavan may only be 25 but she is one of Tyrone’s key players and will be pivotal to their Ulster and All-Ireland intermediate title hopes this season.

The Errigal Ciaran sharp-shooter is having one of her best seasons in the O’Neill county jersey. As top-scorer, her 6-23 played a huge part in Tyrone reaching the Division Two final, where she added another eight points in the defeat to Kildare.

The final appearance secured promotion back to the top table of league football for next year.

That was an unexpected achievement, for this year at least, for Sean O’Kane’s side, but it has catapulted them into the favourites’ position for the Ulster intermediate championship, which they enter on Sunday at the semi-final stage. They face Monaghan in Smithborough for a place in the final against either defending champions Antrim or Down, who meet in Sunday’s other semi-final.

It has also put them among the favourites for the All-Ireland title but, while the goal for Canavan and her team-mates is to win as much as they can, the immediate focus is on Monaghan.

“Every team has their goals and targets for the year. I think every team in Ulster believes they can win it and the same goes for the All-Ireland series,” she said.

“A lot of things need to go right to win a provincial or an All-Ireland title so it’s important that we just remain focused and prepare well for each game that comes our way.

“The league is behind us now and nothing can be taken for granted. We have to stay focused on what’s ahead of us. Monaghan are always a strong, fit and energetic team and I’m sure they are looking forward to it as much as we are. We definitely will not be taking anything for granted.”

Canavan is enjoying her football at the minute and is looking forward to where the summer might take Tyrone.

“We’ve been training now five or six months so it’s good to be at this part of the year now going into the summer months,” she said.

“We had a big turnover in players from last year to this year so most of the girls are just out of minor and getting their first taste at senior inter-county level so as a fairly inexperienced team we are just taking it one step at a time.

“It’s been very enjoyable this year, there’s a lot of new players into our team so that’s really added to it. Everyone has put in a massive effort which stood to us in the league, it was the first time in many years Tyrone ladies went unbeaten through the league and into a league final so it probably was a bit unexpected.”

It may have been unexpected but even getting the extra game in the form of that divisional final against Kildare has all contributed to preparing for the championship.

“To play in Croke Park was great as majority of our girls haven’t had that opportunity before,” said Canavan.

“Although it was a great experience the result was disappointing for us. We have a lot to improve on as we reflect on that game and we will take that into the championship.”

Tyrone and Monaghan met in the league, with Tyrone coming out on top, but both teams are a few months further down the line and Canavan expects a tough challenge.

“Both teams will have improved and it has the making of a great game,” she said.

“Both teams have a lot of new girls in their squad this year so there’s not much baggage or history with many of the current players. The league game was physical and very competitive so nothing can be taken for granted.”