GAA Football

Red Hands in showdown with Tipp to secure senior status

Niamh O'Neill has been Tyrone's top scorer in the championship this season
BY LOUISE GUNN

TG4 All-Ireland Senior Championship relegation play-off: Tyrone v Tipperary (tomorrow, Kinnegad, 2pm)

IT’S the last chance saloon for Tyrone and Tipperary as they face off tomorrow afternoon in a bid to save their place at senior championship table for 2022.

With their championship status at stake it’s now their biggest game of the season as they both vow to leave no stone unturned to save it.

It’s also a toss of the coin as to who will emerge as victorious. Both sides have not been firing on all cylinders with injuries to key players and undoubtedly that has hampered performances on both sides through the summer.

Tipperary have been without the influential Aishling Moloney as well as Emma Morrissey, Anna Rose Kennedy and Caitlin Kennedy, although they have been boosted by the return of Aisling McCarthy, who featured in the relegation qualifier they lost to Kerry a few weeks’ back.

Tipperary have been here before when having won the intermediate title in 2017, they ended up fighting to save their senior status the next year but were unable to and were relegated back to intermediate. They only stayed there for a season, coming straight back up in 2019 but now they find themselves battling at this same juncture once again.

The Premier County lost their group games to Cork and All-Ireland finalists Meath, results that saw them finish bottom and onto the relegation path. They had a chance to retain their senior ranking against Kerry but they fell well short, losing 2-16 to 0-7.

Tyrone had defeats to Dublin and Waterford in their group games, leaving them to face fellow Ulster side Cavan in last week’s relegation qualifier, which they lost by three points after extra-time. After getting themselves back into contention in the second half, pulling back a six points half-time deficit, Tyrone will feel they had chances to win it but ultimately needed a Niamh O’Neill injury time point to send the game to extra-time, where they failed to find the target and Cavan ground out the win.

Despite the quick turnaround in games and despite defeat, Tyrone manager Kevin McCrystal will hope that the bit of momentum gained in having back-to-back games will help them to get off to a quick start against Tipperary. They have shown glimpses of what they can do but it hasn’t so far been enough to get a result and time is not on their side. There’s no doubt Tyrone have the talent in their squad. Niamh O’Neill has been their top scorer and hit six points against Cavan. Chloe McCaffery didn’t feature last week and was a big miss. Grainne Rafferty can also find the target. At the back, captain Tori McLaughlin and the experienced Neamh Woods and Emma Brennan will lead the charge. They will need the full package 60 minutes performance, but so too will Tipperary and this could well come down to who wants it the most.

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