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Sports personality for May, Niamh Woods.  MC 106

Sports personality for May, Niamh Woods. MC 106

EXCELLING in the sports of Gaelic Football and Netball means life for Clanabogan woman Neamh Woods has become something of a juggling act over the years. And 2015 has been no different.

In the early months Neamh helped the struggling Tyrone Ladies GAA team stave off the threat of relegation from Division One of the National League, a deserved 5-15 to 1-10 victory against Laois at Drumragh on the final day extending the Red Hands stay in the top flight.

Neamh’s performances throughout the campaign earned the defender a place on the National League Team of the Year and her importance to the Red Hand side was underlined earlier this month when inspiring the county side to an extra-time 1-12 to 0-14 victory over Cavan in the quarter-finals of the Ulster Championship at Brewster Park.

In between the Sacred Heart College teacher stepped onto the netball court to help Northern Ireland finish third in an Open Invitational European tournament hosted at the Antrim Forum.

All in all May had been a hectic period for Neamh whose amazing exploits on the GAA pitch and netball court has made her a deserved winner of the Ulster Herald’s monthly award.

Ahead of Sunday’s Ulster Championship semi-final clash against old foes Donegal, Neamh said it was hughly important Tyrone had secured their Division One status in the National League.

“The aim from the outset was to stay in Division One,” said the Drumragh Sarsfield player. “We lost a lot of players over recent years through retirement and so on. We had to blood a lot of young players so the biggest outcome for us was to remain in Division One which we achieved by beating Laois in our last game.

“Tyrone is the longest standing team in Division One and it was hugely important to avoid relegation, not just for our reputation but so that we are regularly playing the best teams ahead of the championship.

“For the young girls gaining experience at the highest level can only be good to help bring on their game as well. “I suppose I’m now one of the more senior members of the squad and hopefully we can pass on that valuable experience to those younger players.

“As for the championship quarter- final win over Cavan, experience in the end probably made what little difference there was. The senior members of the team came to the fore and took control of things.

Cavan were going into that game on a bit of a high having lost just once while we had won just once.” A few weeks before that dramatic last-gasp victory over the Cavan, Neamh donned the Northern Ireland vest in facing opponents England, South Africa, Wales, Trinidad and Tobago and Scotland across the netball court.

The prestigious tournament was open invitational to assist Northern Ireland in gaining further ranking points but ultimately the girls in green missed out on a silver medal on points difference to Wales.

After losing 57-47 to South Africa and 52-40 to Trinidad and Tobago, Northern Ireland defeated Scotland 40-31 and drew with Wales 43- 43. But a 64-22 defeat to favourites England on the final day allowed the Welsh to snatch second place.

It had, however, been a close run thing and wing attack Neamh and her team-mates were left reflecting on what might have been had lady luck not turned her back on them against the Welsh. “We finished third, just missed out on the silver on score difference.

England took gold, Wales second,” added the Lisburn Racquets player. “It was disappointing we didn’t take silver given the way the week had panned out. Mind you, for some that would have been beyond expectations. “We had an excellent game against Scotland and an excellent game against Wales.

We led the entire game but Wales finished strongly in the last quarter to go three up with two minutes left to play. “But we got back level and then we had a shot on post which came back off the rim.

We came so close to winning it. “At the very end it was a surreal feeling because the game should have been won but, yet, could have been lost.

“Ultimately we are disappointed but at the same time it’s been a while since Northern Ireland has drawn with Wales. So there are positives to take from the tournament.”

As for Neamh herself there is little let-up, the juggling continues. On Sunday the 26- year-old will line out at half-back as the Red Hands bid to overcome Donegal at Breffni Park to secure a place in the Ulster Championship decider.

Beyond that is the smaller matter of the netball Nations Cup which is being staged in Singapore before Christmas.

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