O'Neill: No second chances for Tyrone in All-Ireland campaign
TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship quarter-final: Tyrone v Wexford (Sunday, Ashbourne, 2.30pm)
TYRONE captain Niamh O’Neill knows there are no second chances any more as the Red Hands face Wexford in Sunday’s TG4 All-Ireland Intermediate Championship quarter-final at Ashbourne.
The competition has reached its crucial stages as the knockout football begins and for O’Neill and Tyrone they face their toughest test of year yet.
Wexford reached last year’s intermediate final losing out to Westmeath and they will be keen to get back to Croke Park again on All-Ireland Finals day at the end of July to try for a second chance. However, this intermediate competition is a difficult one to call and from the remaining eight times anyone, on their day, is well capable of going the whole way. Among them is Tyrone. Having come down from senior following relegated last season they will be keen to get back up again but no that is not guaranteed, and they have a real battle on their hands to get back up.
“Every game now is a final, if you lose you are out. It’s our biggest game of the season and knowing how Wexford are going and playing them in the past particularly in the All-Ireland series they are definitely a tough side. They have fantastic players and they reached last year’s intermediate final and they are going to be gunning to go one step further themselves,” said O’Neill.
“We are in the knockout stages, it’s winner takes all on the day, it’s all about who performs on the day and hopefully we can do that.”
Wexford are certainly going well having reached the Division Three league final, although they lost out to Roscommon by a point, will they come into the knockout stages with three wins from three having defeated Leitrim, Wicklow and Offaly in the group stages
However, they will need little reminding of the last time they came up against Tyrone - they met in a Division Two relegation play-off in 2021 with Tyrone putting an incredible 11 goals past their opponents as the Red Hands stayed up and Wexford went down. Wexford reached the Division Three final this year as they attempted to get back up again but lost by a point to Roscommon.
Sean O’Kane’s Tyrone have reached this stage by beating Sligo but lost the next day to Laois. The result didn’t really matter that day as both teams had already qualified for the quarter-finals but Laois’ win meant they finished top of the group with Tyrone finishing second setting up this clash with Wexford.
“We lost to Laois but there were probably 20 minutes in the game, particularly in the first half, where it was as good as we played all year,” said O’Neill. “There were positives to take from that and it was a good chance to test ourselves against another team that is probably thinking about trying to win the thing as well.
“There are loads to learn as well. We conceded three goals and before that we hadn’t conceded that many so it has given us an opportunity to see weaknesses that we can look at.”
The other quarter-finals are Louth against Roscommon, Longford against Clare, and Laois facing Wicklow.