McGarry bemoans demanding schedule for Red Hands

By Alan Rodgers

A SECOND Christy Ring Cup campaign for the Tyrone hurlers brings with it the opportunity for them to build on an early-season campaign which has been marked by them making impressive strides when it matters most in the higher ranks.

Progress in the National League – which concluded with a final defeat to Derry two weeks ago – combined with the experience of playing in the third tier championship last year is providing the Red Hands with a lot of confidence. But both the players and management know well that they must raise the bar even further as their 2024 efforts continue.

Nevertheless, this is certain to be a challenging campaign. London are first up for the hurlers this weekend. The game is at the Eoghan Ruadh ground in Dungannon and provides them with a chance to turn the tables on a team which defeated them in the league just last month.

Team manager, Stephen McGarry, will have been glad of the break from action. Like many inter-county managers in hurling and football, the tight scheduling due to the spilt-season is challenging.

It’s expected that Tyrone will have a full strength panel available for the tie. Seamus Sweeney of Carrickmore Eire Óg was the only injury concern, having missed the league final. His inclusion for this round one Christy Ring tie would be a big boost.

“It has been unrelenting and the players are tired. The management team is tired because we have just been on the go here for four weekends in a row,” said team manager, Stephen McGarry.

“This is a quick turnaround. With the injuries we have picked up, it’s tight to try and get them fit. But we’ll try our best.

“But I think there does have to be a better solution, but I’m not that smart to come up with it.”

Whatever about the fixtures concerns around the country, there will be no doubting the determination of the players to make their mark in the Christy Ring.

They face a tough start to the competition. All will be aware of London’s potential due to the league defeat, and that game is followed by a third away clash against Derry this year.

“The London game is going to be vital for us. We have had one weekend before we’re straight into the championship with critical and vital matches,” added Stephen McGarry.

“It has been seriously intense for four weekends, just battle after battle. But we’re recovering the bodies and the Christy Ring is now our main focus.”

By the same token, Stephen McGarry has been gradually introducing a number of new young players to the squad.

“While this is a very new Tyrone team, they’re still developing. The development that they’ve had throughout the league has been fantastic and I’m delighted with that.

“They will only get better as the season goes on. They’re starting to gel together and there’s some serious hurlers in there.”

“We’ve needed to recover since the league final because it has been four tough weeks and weekends in a row. That’s maybe the result of getting to a National League final.”

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