Manager McGarry hoping for winning start

By Alan Rodgers

A NEW season beckons for the Tyrone hurlers as their main aim continues to be the consolidation of the brilliant progress which has marked their performances in both the league and championship during the past few years.

Last year, 2023, marked their first time in both the higher Division 2B and the Christy Ring Cup. Their status was emphatically maintained back then, and now a similar target remains in place as they prepare for the challenges of 2024.

First up for them is this Sunday’s clash against a Derry team which made its mark twelve months ago by reaching the Christy Ring final and only missing out narrowly in taking the title. It has been a period of change for Tyrone, following the stepping down of long-serving and successful manager, Michael McShane.

Dermot Begley and Sean Óg Grogan from Carrickmore won’t be available having announced their retirements following last year’s inter-county campaign. Nevertheless, both the players and management are relishing what’s ahead.

It’s a season which, of course, begins with this weekend’s away clash against Derry at Celtic Park. The game is a curtain-raiser to the football clash between the same two counties and carries with it a serious amount of incentives for the Red Hands.

In 2023, the two drew in the league, and Tyrone are well aware of the need to at least match that result this time around. Things have been going well in training, too, according to the new manager, Stephen McGarry who took over from McShane having worked as coach under him during some of the best successes of recent seasons.

“The boys have trained really well and stuck to their task. We have definitely had a positive start,” he said.

“There is more confidence this year, but we are still very new to the Division. Last year was our first year and we are still dipping our toes. There’s a degree of freshness as well and an opportunity for some of the new lads to step up and make their mark.

“All the young lads should have massive contributions to make. We have brought in good quality players who are more than capable of being competitive.

“But Derry away from home are absolutely going to be tough. They are probably the strongest team in this division, they pushed for promotion last year and came within two points of winning the Christy Ring Cup. They are probably big favourites for promotion.

“They have also added to their playing panel with a very strong u-20 team of last year. They’ll likely be stronger than last year, but that’s not to say that Tyrone will be competitive and will go out and perform to the best of our ability.

“The target for us is to go out and be as competitive as possible and if we do that then we’ll be in with a good chance.”

Tyrone have brought a number of new players into the panel. They include Seamus Sweeney, Cormac Munroe, Ben Gormley.

To date their year they ran Antrim close in the pre-season Conor McGurk Cup. However, the recent spate of poor weather conditions has, like many other counties, somewhat disrupted the preparations for this league campaign.

“We were still able to train and I can’t fault the players for their exemplary attitude towards training,” added Stephen McGarry.

“But we are more than happy with the way that we are prepared. This is a new departure for myself as manager and I suppose we have to make the most of the opportunities.

“Any player should want to play at the highest level possible that they can. Tyrone are now hurling at Christy Ring level and Division 2B. It’s something to enjoy because for a long team Tyrone were down in a division below and scraping by week by week.

“I know the players have bought into the challenge facing us. This is to be enjoyed and I am excited. Having been involved for the past number of years, this is a different role for myself, but there’s a good coaching team in place.

“We are definitely looking forward to this game. Tyrone are underdogs, but we always revel in that role and it’s about making the most of this opportunity.”

The game is on at 1.30pm before Tyrone against Derry in the National Football League and hopes will be high that a sizeable attendance will be in place to cheer on the hurlers as they begin their second season in the high Division 2B.

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