Hurling & Camogie

Tyrone ready for tests against best possible opposition: Stephen McGarry

Red Hand boss believes Christy Ring Cup is perfect place for side to develop

Tyrone manager Stephen McGarry (left) was previously a coach under former boss Michael McShane
Stephen McGarry (left), who was previously a coach under former Tyrone boss Michael McShane, leads the Red Hands into Christy Ring Cup action this weekend

TYRONE manager Stephen McGarry wants to test his side against the strongest possible opposition - and he sees the Christy Ring Cup as the perfect place for the next stage of their development.

The Red Hands face London in their opening tie on Sunday, hoping to build on a solid National League campaign which saw them reach the Division 2B final and win promotion to the restructured Division Two.

They will also come up against Derry, Kildare, Sligo and Wicklow in what promises to be a tough series.

“We want to be hurling against the better teams and testing and pushing ourselves,” said McGarry.

The Ballycastle man is setting no targets for his side, and will focus on the highest levels of performance every day they take the field.

“We don’t talk about permutations, we don’t talk about results, or beating this team or beating that team... we just go out and try and perform.

“We approach every game the same way, should it be the first League game, should it be the League final, should it be the first Christy Ring game.

“We’ll approach it in the exact same way, with determination and hard work and effort.”

His first season as Red Hand boss has presented him with a rebuilding project, following the departure of up to a dozen established players.

But a new-look team has performed at levels beyond expectation.

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

“And they will only get better as the season goes on. They’re starting to gel, there’s some serious hurlers in there.

“If my players could give what they gave [in the League final] against London in the Christy Ring, I’ll be delighted.”

Tyrone have had just one week off between League and Championship, offering scant opportunity for the players to recover and renew following a demanding Division 2B campaign.

“We need to recover, because it’s been four tough weeks and weekends in-a-row, and that’s maybe the making of getting to a National League final.

“But it’s been seriously intense for four weekends, just battle after battle. We’ll recover the bodies between now and the Christy Ring, so that will be our main focus.”

McGarry believes the condensed split season is putting undue pressure on players, and needs to be adjusted to provide more space for the inter-county season.

“I think there has to be a wee bit of common sense.

“We have one weekend before we’re straight in to Championship, and critical matches, vital games. The London game is going to be vital.

“It’s been unrelenting, the players are tired, the management team is tired. With the injuries we have picked up, it’s a tight turnaround to try and get them fit, but we’ll try our best.

“I think there does have to be a better solution.”