Hurling & Camogie

Tyrone and Derry hurlers set for clash of styles: McGarry

Sperrins rivals will meet in Allianz Hurling League Division 2B final

Derry's Christy McNaughton with Lorcan Devlin of Tyrone
Derry's Christy McNaughton with Lorcan Devlin of Tyrone during the NHL Division 2B match played at Celtic Park in Derry on Sunday 4th February 2024. Picture Margaret McLaughlin (Margaret McLaughlin Photography )

Tyrone will meet Derry’s class and artistry with a relentless workrate in Saturday’s Allianz Hurling League Division 2B final, according to manager Stephen McGarry.

An intriguing clash of styles adds a touch of mystery to an Owenbeg encounter that the Oak Leafers are tipped to win.

Both sides have already secured promotion to the restructured Division Two for 2025, but this derby decider will nonetheless be fiercely contested.

“They have got fantastic hurlers, they have got superstars within their ranks, but we’ll just go out and be the best version of Tyrone that we can be,” said McGarry.

“They do have the marquee players, but we maybe look at it a wee bit differently in that we just try and work hard.

“We demand high standards of ourselves, and we hold ourselves to those standards.

“They’ve got a wider array of players from different clubs, and some are key clubs, such as Slaughtneil. You have got lads there who have played in All-Ireland semi-finals, they’re a terrific outfit and it’s full credit to them.

Tyrone manager Stephen McGarry (left) was previously a coach under former boss Michael McShane
Tyrone manager Stephen McGarry (left) was previously a coach under former boss Michael McShane

With championship action in the Christy Ring Cup just a few weeks away, the competitive outings provided by two extra league games has added a new dimension to Tyrone’s preparations for summer hurling.

“Players love games, they love playing games, and you get far more out of games than you get out of training sessions, irrespective of what the training session would look like.”

Tyrone came through a demanding semi-final last weekend, getting past Donegal with just a point to spare at Letterkenny.

“Coming out of a bruising battle like that, they have gained an awful lot from it.

“Our focus will be on recovery, because it’s a quick turnaround, but you would rather have games than not.

“Put it like this, if we weren’t playing in a league semi-final, we would be playing a challenge game somewhere.

“It was nip and tuck and it was a really enjoyable game.”

And an extended run in the league offers further value in helping a new group of players continue to develop fluency and familiarity following the departure of several experienced campaigners.

“Slowly but surely we’re coming along. We’re only halfway through the season with a relatively new group of players, but what an impact they have made.

“You have guys out there who maybe haven’t lifted a hurling stick in two or three years, and they’re starring for Tyrone in Division 2B.”

McGarry feels one of the greatest strengths of his squad is versatility, as evidenced by the manner in which roles were swapped in the narrow semi-final win over Donegal.

“I would say the beauty about us is that all our players are adaptable.

“Seamus Sweeney last week was in wing half forward, and then I had to put him in to corner back, it depends on the opposition.

“We do our due diligence, and we put out the team that we think suits the game.

“It’s not a problem to any of the players, they just love hurling, they want to play hurling, they don’t mind, so they’re happy to go and do a job for Tyrone.”

Tyrone displayed flair and intent for the majority of the 5-9 to 3-14 victory over their north-west neighbours, but the boss is anxious to see his side perform with consistency from start to finish.

“As regards our boys, I don’t think we have put 70 minutes together.”