National Hurling League Division 3A
Tyrone v Donegal
Sunday, Healy Park, 2pm
TYRONE hurler Conor Grogan has said that the persistence of manager Mattie Lennon is the main reason why he is back in the red and white jersey this season.
The Carrickmore man made a welcome return in Sunday’s National League win over Louth in Darver, his first game since the county’s 2017 Nicky Rackard semi-final defeat to Armagh.
The player made an instant impact and his 1-3 tally was crucial in Tyrone’s five-point win.
The result sets them up well for Sunday’s round two encounter with Donegal at Healy Park as they continue their push for promotion from Division 3A.
“Mattie,” was the simple reply when asked what brought him back into the fold.
“I had work commitments and things like that but I’m trying to work around it. Mattie said he would work with me whatever way it pans out and I’m just happy to be back involved.”
Grogan could only watch on over the last two seasons as Tyrone missed out on Division 3A final spots on scoring difference in consecutive years.
One bad performance can have massive repercussions in this division, and for 40 minutes on Sunday the Red Hands were far from their best.
Indeed, things looked ominous when Louth were awarded a penalty with 12 minutes remaining when the sides were level, but Conor McElhatton saved from Ryan Walsh and Tyrone finished strongly to leave them in good shape ahead of their meeting with the Tir Chonaill county.
Grogan put the strong finish down to the fitness work completed either side of Christmas.
“We pulled away in the last 10 or 15 minutes and Caolan Harvey, he has done all the fitness with us and it showed.
“We kicked on in the second half with the wind behind us, there were some big tackles and some big scores.”
It was Grogan’s goal that eventually broke Louth’s resistance but he very well could have helped himself to a hat-trick.
He had a major ruled out after the umpire adjudged that Matthew Mulgrew was over the endline before delivering the key pass while he saw another effort blocked by Louth goalkeeper Donal Connolly.
“I don’t know what happened, Mattie was out but the ball wasn’t out,” he said of the disallowed goal.
“The boys reminded me in the circle after the game that I should have had a hat-trick but it was good to get the win.
“Conor saving the penalty was such a big moment, they were coming back into it and thank God he stopped it. He made some important saves in the first half too.”
Donegal are already on the backfoot following their 2-17 to 0-15 reversal at the hands of Armagh last weekend.
It was a frustrating day for Donegal manager Mickey McCann who saw his side hit wide after wide while they failed to score at all in the final 20 minutes.
They had led by a point in the 50th minute with Declan Coulter contributing 10 of their 15 scores, but they ran out of steam badly.
Given that one more slip would all but end their promotion hopes, Grogan is wary of a Donegal backlash this Sunday.
“Donegal would have been thinking of promotion out of this season, they would have been favourites I’d say along with Armagh.
“We have them at home now and it’s always been good battles between us over the last four or five years.
“Hopefully with it being a home game we get a bit of a crowd out. Winning gives the promotion of hurling a lift and if more and more people came I’d sure they would appreciate the efforts of the players.
“Hopefully people come out to support us in the Donegal game.”