Victory vital in Yeats County for Tyrone hurlers

By Alan Rodgers

A VICTORY is now an urgent priority for the Tyrone hurlers as they continue their Christy Ring Cup campaign with a vital clash against a Sligo side which has consistently proved to be strong opposition.

It has been a difficult start to the competition for the Red Hands. An opening day defeat to London was followed up by last Saturday’s heavy loss against Derry. But they remain optimistic and this weekend’s tie at Markievicz Park presents a good opportunity to get things back on track.

The teams met in the same competition a year ago at Carrickmore. Little separated them on that occasion and the expectation is that the game on Saturday will once more go right to the wire.

The teams have met regularly in both the National League and Christy Ring and Nickey Rackard Cups in recent years and both will see this as an opportunity to make their mark. With both bidding to secure their status at this level, the significance of this game should not be under-estimated.

Tyrone manager Stephen McGarry was understandably disappointed with their performance against Derry. But he’s also well aware of the impact that a whole series of injuries is having on their fortunes, and the importance of this next trip to the Yeats County.

“We have a fair idea with regards to Sligo. But we’ll focus on ourselves now on Tuesday and Thursday at training, try and get the bodies gathered up and patched up and see who is available. But we’ll be looking for a reaction,” said the Ballycastle native.

“There’s a couple of players who had their first start of the year last weekend. To be coming in against a seasoned Derry team that probably has aspirations of winning the Christy Ring Cup is a high standard to be coming in at.

“We’re not going to sit here and tell you that we’re pleased with either the performance or the result.

“There’s a lot of players missing and you can see that with the team selection. The players who are coming in are giving everything that they can and full credit to them for that. We know that when we have all of our players out that we can be competitive.

“It’s possibly just a numbers game that we have too many of our key players missing.”

One player who is definitely out of consideration for selection is Carrickmore, Eire Óg’s Oran McKee. In what is a huge blow for the side, the team captain has a serious ACL injury.

In addition, there’s a realisation that this season is reaching a critical junction. The absence of Sean Óg Grogan and Seamus Sweeney amongst others has caused concern, and both the players and management are determined to get things back on track sooner rather than later.

“It’s just one of those things. We’ll go from week to week as we do and aim for the performance. We’ll be looking for a reaction now coming into the Sligo game,” added McGarry.

“This is definitely a grilling schedule, but we love it. The players and ourselves enjoy the games and we enjoy hurling at this level.

“It’s not like we’ve been here in the past because being in Division 2B and in the Christy Ring is fairly new to Tyrone. So, we’re finding our feet, learning on the job and about the players. It’s tough but we just have to learn.

“We have had to deal with all the blows. But this is a resilient bunch of players and we’ll battle on through. We have to be realistic about where we are at in terms of keeping players and getting them on the field, so hopefully all being well there’s be a couple returning.”

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