TYRONE first announced their credentials at the highest echelons of ladies football in 2007 when they shocked Armagh in the All-Ireland quarter-final.
Gemma Begley gave an exhibition on that occasion, scoring 3-6 on no less an individual than All Star Caoimhe Marley as the Orchard side were downed by nine points.
The Carrickmore marksman was on fire that night but in truth has been at the hub of all that is good about the Red Hands since pulling on the jersey in 2003.
This year though, the team appears to have a better balance to it, with a scoring threat throughout the forward line meaning that Begley can operate on the 40 and create, as well as finish.
The 25-year-old slotted four points as Tyrone finally ended Cork’s remarkable run of championship victories, beating the five-in-a-row champions by seven in the end.
Crucially, nobody got too carried away by that success. Had they done so the dream of winning the Brendan Martin Cup for the first time might have perished against Kerry. As it was, it took two bites of the cherry to shake them off.
“It was a tight one” Begley recalls. “Obviously after coming through the Cork game it was a case of getting the feet back on the ground. Dublin came through as tough a game against Laois and we’re just hoping the extra game will stand to us.
“There was no celebrating (after beating Cork). Bus journeys are that long you’re wrecked by the time you get home and you just hit the bed. Obviously you enjoy it, you have to enjoy your victories but even back at training the Tuesday after we were ‘that’s that done, get on it, we’ve nothing won yet and nothing to show for it’.
“It would mean nothing if we were beat the next day. It wasn’t that we were getting carried away but were probably just that bit afraid that we might lose the day after that and it might take away from it.
“We were three points down at half time (against Kerry) but there was no panic. You have to stick to the game plan. You know you’ve done the work in training and just have to have a bit of faith in yourself and hope you get the scores. Thankfully enough we did.”
Last year’s Ulster champions have “put in a lot of work” this year says Begley and now, they are just an hour away from that commitment yielding the best possible dividend. There is serious opposition in the other corner though.
Dublin were pipped in last year’s final but Tyrone prevailed by a point in the league avoid relegation this term.
“We had to win that game; it was a relegation battle and we were lucky enough there was only a point in it in the end. We played them in the championship a few times the last years. It’s always a tough game, it’s always hard-hitting. You know what you’re going to get.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved