Tyrone camogs continue to make strides

By Niall Gartland

PROGRESS has been the name of the game for the Tyrone camogs this season, and Saturday’s All-Ireland Premier Junior championship quarter-final against Cavan represents another big step in the right direction.

Paul O’Grady’s side claimed the Division Four title and Ulster Junior honours earlier in the year – and in quite some style, too – but the All-Ireland Premier Junior Championship is a different kettle of fish and they faced their first bumps in the road with group stage defeats to Armagh and Tipperary.

But they bounced back with back-to-back wins to advance to the knock-out rounds, therefore avoiding their usual fate of seeing out their season in the bottom rung Nancy Murray Cup competition.

O’Grady, who has done a stellar job in his first season in charge, said: “It’s a massive boost. The idea was to win every game this year and to bring things to the next level.

“Our goal at the beginning of the year was to improve Tyrone camogie at every stage of the season, rather than staying at the same standard.

“We’re delighted to get to the quarter-final and yes, it’s only going to get tougher but at the same time we’re more than capable of holding our own at that standard. You’re better getting tough games rather than beating teams by a cricket score, which is no good for anybody.”

Tyrone hadn’t lost a single game all season until their opening group stage encounters against Armagh and Tipperary Juniors, but they by no means embarrassed themselves against two seriously strong sides who will fancy their chances of going all the way in the competition. There’s only one way to get back on the wagon and Tyrone responded in the best possible fashion with wins over Down Juniors and Wicklow to cement their place in the knock-out rounds.

O’Grady commented: “Tipperary and Armagh are above us in league terms, they’re two or three years ahead of us in our development so I thought the way we performed was quite impressive in the circumstances.

“Armagh was a funny game, the wind was ridiculously strong in the first half and they ran up a lead. When the second half came round we got back into the swing of things but the wind had completely died by that stage so we didn’t get to take advantage of it.

“In the Tipperary game we were a bit more confident in ourselves and we gave them a really good game.

“The scoreboard mightn’t reflect that but in the game itself, we didn’t feel like we were far away from them, they were just more clinical than us. We had players who really stood up and gave a brilliant performance and that gave us a lot of encouragement heading into the Down and Wicklow games.”

Cavan played in the lofty heights of Division 2A this season, albeit it didn’t go according to plan and they were relegated. They’ve picked up a bit of form in the championship and on paper there isn’t much between the two teams going by recent challenge matches.

“In our last challenge game, we were missing quite a lot of players and lost by a point. They had their strongest team out, so that suggests to me that we can definitely go out and do a job on them. We played poorly in our two friendlies against them this year and there was nothing between us so we’re confident going into this weekend.”

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