Hurling and camogie

Tyrone hurling captain Dermot Begley has sights set on Croke Park

Armagh's Tiarnan Nevin comes under pressure from Tyrone's Dermot Begley at Healy Park. Picture by Seamus Loughran.
Francis Mooney

Tyrone captain Dermot Begley has his heart set on a Croke Park appearance, and he's almost there.

One more massive hurdle remains to be cleared in tomorrow's Nicky Rackard Cup semi-final, and Ulster derby clash with Armagh at Inniskeen.

The Eire Og man has made many attempts to secure a place in the title decider, but time and again faltered at the penultimate stage.

“Any year I have been involved, we've always got to semi-finals, but never done the business,” he said.

“So we have to get it done this time, we haven't done it since 2014.

“It's a big prize to get to Croke Park, and that's what we'll be pushing for.”

The NHL clash of the Orchard and the Red Hand resulted in a win for Tyrone.

Since that Healy Park tie back in March, Armagh have been working hard to get back to the level of hurling at which they have become accustomed to operating.

They went through their Rackard Cup group unbeaten, dropping just one point on their way to topping their section, while Tyrone qualified for the last four as a group runner-up.

“They did well to top that group, with the quality of the other teams that were in it.

“They'll be looking for revenge after the league match. That was the first time we beat them in as long as I can remember,” said Begley. “So we'll just have to pick up the pieces and go again.”

Tyrone secured their semi-final place in nervy and dramatic circumstances last weekend.

They needed to beat Louth and hope that Mayo would fail to defeat Sligo in the other crucial group game.

The Connacht neighbours finished level, sparking celebrations at Healy Park as the news filtered through.

“I went over to the line with a couple of minutes to go, and was told, just a win. We knew Mayo had come back strongly, Sligo were well up in the last five minutes and then Mayo came back with a goal, but they missed two frees at the end.

“All week, we said we're not going to worry about the other game, but whenever you get into those final minutes, you need to know what you need, whether you need to push on or just stick with it.

“But we had to get the job done ourselves, and we pulled away at the end, probably should have finished a lot stronger than we did, for we had a lot of wides. But it was a good result, and great to have another day out.”

Tyrone emerged with a seven points win over Louth, but they had to fight hard to get the better of a team that was battling desperately to avoid the relegation play-off.

“It was a good performance and great fight. We knew Louth were going to be tough, they didn't want to get relegated, and they're in a relegation play-off now.

“And we knew that if we got beat ourselves we were going to be in a relegation play-off, so a tough day at the office, but great to get a result.”

Begley added: “You could see the workrate, putting Louth under pressure, making them make bad passes, making them over-carry, and it worked a treat whenever our forwards worked hard.

“We put a lot into getting a good start, and we were eight points up at one stage, we were putting a lot of work into it, and then we sorta died off.

“But we got in at half-time, we re-set, and we didn't start the second half well, but we got a good strong run towards the end.”

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