By Paul O'Neill

A heavy defeat to Armagh recently in the Ladies Football Championship might suggest otherwise, but Gemma Begley is convinced Tyrone are on the up.

Tyrone have had a difficult time since they reached their first All-Ireland final four years ago.

The Red Hand County have had no fewer than four changes of management in the meantime and seen a host of players quit the squad, while each year they have failed to make it past the last eight in the All-Ireland Series.

Last season was particularly tough as Mickey Rea quit as boss after the end of the National League and was replaced by Brian McGee and Paudge Quinn. Also, they had the misfortune of having five players side-lined with cruciate ligament damage at the same time.

But captain Begley believes Tyrone's fortunes have started to turn – despite going down to Armagh by 2-17 to 1-5 in Ulster.

She said: "When you want to do well in this game – like many others – you need continuity and stability and unfortunately we have not had too much of that since we lost to Dublin in the 2010 All-Ireland final.

"Having new managers come in on a regular basis was not ideal because it took them time to settle and get to know the players and vice versa.

"It is not easy either when players opt out of the squad for different reasons and sadly many of those we lost were some of the best that we had.

"All of the changes certainly did not help as we sought to challenge for honours but I feel this year things have improved quite a bit. The management we had for last year's Championship has stayed in place and the squad has not altered much."

And Begley continued: "Over the last few years we have seen many players drop out of Tyrone county squads from minor through to senior and it has been a worry.

"One of the reasons for them going is they did not see much chance of some silverware down the line but if you want to do well you need players – especially the talented ones – to stay around from year to year. Thankfully that situation is not as bad as it was and that can only be good for the future as we look to push on.

"Having the same management team in place from last year is a massive help too.

"Brian and Paudge are very honest and loyal to the players and that has been a big advantage. Also they brought in Tiffy Quinn as coach and he has prepared us brilliantly for games."

Tyrone, who competed in Division One of the League this year, were expected to do much better than they did against Division Three outfit Armagh in their Championship opener.

However Begley insists they have put what happened behind them as they look forward to trying to kick-start their TG4 Championship campaign in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

She recalled: "The Armagh game was just one of those where not much went right for us and they were outstanding.

"It was not that we underestimated them because we knew what to expect. They might have been playing two divisions lower than us in this year's league but we realised they were a good bit better than that.

"Remember last year they were unlucky to lose to Cork by just one point in the qualifiers and they went on to retain the All-Ireland.

"We had no complaints about the defeat to Armagh and since then we have been working hard to try and make sure we do not play as poorly again."

Kildare will be Tyrone's next opponents in the first round of the qualifiers at Navan on Saturday. And Begley admits Tyrone are not too familiar with the side they will be facing.

"We only found out last week that we will be playing Kildare so we have not had too long to consider the type of challenge that they might present to us,” added Begley.

"While we have come up against them in the League and friendly games over the last few years, we have not played them this year so it will be a bit of a step into the unknown for us.

"But sometimes you can get too wrapped up in the team you have to play so we have been focusing on ourselves and looking to perform to our potential.

"If we can do that on the day then we should have a decent chance of getting the right result and hopefully beginning a winning run."

Saturday: TG4 All-Ireland Ladies Football Senior Championship qualifiers first round:
Clare v Westmeath (Birr, 1600)
Kildare v Tyrone (Navan,1715)
Meath v Cavan (Navan, 1900)