Tyrone underdogs for Division Two final joust with Kildare

The Lilywhites are on an impressive unbeaten streak of 21 games

Sean O'Kane
Sean O'Kane will be on the sideline when Tyrone play their first league final since 2000 (Oliver McVeigh / SPORTSFILE/SPORTSFILE)

Division Two final

Kildare v Tyrone (tomorrow, Croke Park, 1pm, live on TG4)

TYRONE make their first league final appearance in 25 years against Kildare tomorrow, with both teams coming through their campaigns unbeaten.

They played out a 2-8 to 3-5 draw in round six, while Tyrone’s draw with Laois meant the Lilywhites finished top with their six wins.

Not much will be read into that game as both sides made changes, but Maria Canavan, Tyrone’s top scorer with 6-21, tucked away a penalty in the closing minutes to grab a point.

Kildare, managed by Mayo great Diane O’Hora, are on a 21-match winning streak in all competitions.

Their last defeat came in February last year in round four of  Division Three against Louth, but that did not stop them winning that title, defeating Clare in the final.

They then went unbeaten in the championship, a run that culminated in the Lilywhites winning the All-Ireland intermediate final, also against Clare. That will see them play senior championship football this summer.

They have key players in captain Grace Clifford – who is half of an experienced midfield partnership with Claire Sullivan – as well as Roisin Byrne, Ellen Downey, Neasa Dooley, Aoife Rattigan and Sarah Munnelly.

Kildare last won the Division Two title in 2004 and were runners-up in 2006 and 2010.

Tyrone have got here on merit, with some superb performances and wins, notably over Tipperary and Donegal. They have shown character too, digging deep against Laois when it looked like they might taste defeat to the league’s bottom team.

The Red Hands had 11 different scorers across all the games, so while Canavan will certainly be on Kildare’s radar, they will also need to be mindful of the dangers posed by Emma Conroy, Zoe Loughran, Aoife Horisk and Sasha Byrne.

Captain Aoibhinn McHugh has scored 1-6 from midfield and she and Meabh Mallon also form a formidable partnership, making that a key battle area with Clifford and Sullivan.

McHugh and Mallon, Joanne Barrett, Emma Jane Gervin, Sasha Byrne and Chloe McCaffrey are the only six who remain from the 2018 All-Ireland intermediate-winning team, the last time Tyrone were in Croke Park.

Their last league final was the Division One decider in 2000 against Mayo, which they lost and with a certain Kildare manager captaining the Connacht side that year.

Twelve months earlier, they defeated Dublin in the Division Two final, with O’Kane at the helm, going on to win the All-Ireland junior final.