Hurling and camogie

Tyrone boss Mattie Lennon calls for summer hurling for lower counties

Francis Mooney

Tyrone manager Mattie Lennon has called on Croke Park to provide summer hurling for the counties in the lower divisions.

Lennon is angry at the lack of opportunities for talented players from Tyrone and other counties to showcase their skills on a firm sod under blue skies.

The current calendar sees the season end for many teams before June, and the Red Hand boss claims the situation is hampering the development of the game in areas where it needs to be promoted.

“We play nothing but winter hurling, and it's a totally different game from summer hurling,” he said.

“If we are going to improve the level and standard that we play at, we have to play in the summertime. That's the bottom line.

“The National League starts in January, it's over at the start of March, and the Nicky Rackard is over by the first week of June.

“Pitches are only firming up at the end of May, you're only starting to see the difference then, and unfortunately we don't play any summer hurling.

“And until Croke Park look at that, for us to really improve the standard of hurling, we have to be playing those important games through the summer time.”

The Ring, Rackard and Meagher Cups could all be played at a later date, with the latter stages acting as curtain-raisers for high profile championship ties.

“The likes of the Nicky Rackard Cup could be pushed more towards the summer time, they could be played along with big games in the Liam McCarthy Cup or the Leinster Championship or Munster Championship,” said Lennon.

“If the finals were played later on the year, it would give great exposure to it, and also would lift the standard.”

The 2018 season was a campaign of near misses for Tyrone, when they narrowly failed to qualify for the NHL Division 3A final and the Nicky Rackard Cup decider.

“We could have been in two finals, but we didn't get there. We just missed out on the league final very narrowly, and then beaten in the championship semi-final by Warwickshire.

But Lennon reflected on the year as a success in terms of the emergence of new players who have the ability to play inter-county hurling and strengthen his squad.

“We had a few younger players come into the panel this year, and they had to be blooded. It takes a wee bit of time for them to adapt to it as well.

“You can't stand still, you have to bring in young lads, but they have to learn their trade. The sooner you can get them in there, the sooner they can learn, but getting quality hurling and quality training with the older lads.

“Everything takes time. You're dealing with a small core of players from a small number of clubs. It takes time to develop young lads and bring them in there, and you have to be patient with that.

“But it's a matter of having a process of bringing them in, trying them out, coaching and training them and trying to get them to up to the speed and the level that you want them at.

“There's a lot of positives. There's a lot of good hurlers about, young hurlers and established hurlers.

“But I'd love to be playing at a later stage in the year and giving those lads exposure in big matches. It's unfortunate that all our competitions are all over, done and dusted, by the time the rest of the competitions start.”

The Tyrone boss is now able to cast the net wider and select from a larger pool of players, due to the work being done in establishing or reviving clubs in the county.

“This year we had lads from Omagh, Killyclogher, Coalisland as well as Dungannon and Carrickmore, so we are picking up lads from other areas, which is what you want.

“You want to broaden the scope for new players, and these young lads coming in will hopefully improve from training at inter-county level, and then go back to their clubs and improve things at club level as well.”

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