WHILE it’s the high profile players, the household names, who always seem to get the plaudits, to grind out results, get teams over the line, it’s more often than not down to the grafters within the ranks.
Aodh Ruadh midfielder Emma Jane Gervin made her Tyrone senior debut against Sligo in the 2017 National League campaign and since that opening day victory she has emerged as one of the first names on the team sheet, playing a pivotal role as the Red Hands progressed to the All-Ireland final.
Gervin is tireless, unassuming and shy away from the park but on it she is one of the driving forces. Her work ethic was recognised earlier this spring as she was named on the National League Division Two team of the year.
“To be picked in the league team was a great boost, a personal honour but to be honest it wasn’t the league campaign we would have wanted, we missed promotion and while we have improved we all know we have more work to do,” she observed.
Sunday’s final against Down in Enniskillen is another chance for the Dungannon girl, who is one of the next generation of players to come in after the transition year of 2016, to collect a second Ulster medal.
Alongside a handful of new faces who joined some of the experienced Red Hands who had claimed a first Ulster intermediate title in 2016, the 26-year-old grabbed her chance and alongside the likes of club mates Niamh Hughes and Meabh Mallon she has enjoyed her time in Tyrone colours.
Gervin was an interested spectator at Healy Park last Saturday afternoon to watch the second intermediate semi-final.
Sunday’s opponents Down bounced back from a 38 point mauling at the hands of Tyrone to ease to a big win of their own over Fermanagh.
Tyrone will start as favourites to make it three in a row at Brewster Park this weekend, but Gervin admitted Down will have learned from their past two fixtures.
“I’m sure they will bring what they have picked up to Enniskillen on Sunday for sure,” she confirmed. “They improved from the first day against us and we can not afford to take anything for granted.
“They deserve respect. They have reached the Ulster final like ourselves, they will be very tough.”
Gervin is one of the experienced players in this squad – a dozen players who were involved in the All-Ireland run last year are no longer involved – but the core group of Neamh Woods, Shannon Lynch, Christiane Hunter, Neamh O’Neill and Emma Hegarty all remain, but she is guarded about Tyrone’s All-Ireland campaign.
“We can only focus on Down this week. We enjoyed our All-Ireland run last year and of course we would love to be back. There’s more work to be done though, everyone knows that for sure,” she said.
Tyrone come into Sunday’s final with a couple of injury concerns. Once again Emma Mulgrew is a doubt with an ongoing hamstring strain, while Slaine McCarroll’s knee problems continue to rumble on.
Manager Gerry Moane remains upbeat though, but he is expected to shuffle things, bearing in mind that upwards of eight of his All -Ireland final squad found themselves on the bench last time out.
“We might have a few bumps and scrapes but that’s what the squad is about,” he observed.
“We have strength in all sectors, we will have the uppermost respect for Down and despite the big win over them this is a new day and new game with different circumstances.
“This is going to be a massive season – a new look All-Ireland round robin series and while the Ulster Championship is important we are looking further down the line, we want players to have experience and to be fair, we had two players there from the minor’s last year and they did not look out of place. We are lucky to have such a quality squad and yes we will contemplate changes again.”