Hurling & Camogie

Casey calling on Tyrone hurlers to repeat heroics of win over Armagh when they face Donegal in Nicky Rackard semi-final

Tyrone's Damien Casey and Donegal's Jamesie Donnelly.
Tyrone's Damien Casey and Donegal's Jamesie Donnelly.

TYRONE captain Damian Casey is convinced that if his side can reproduce the heroics of their victory over Armagh, they can get the better of holders Donegal in Saturday’s Nickey Rackard Cup semi-final.

The Red Hands were seven points behind and reduced to 14 men at the Athletic Grounds, but produced an inspired final 20 minutes of hurling to set up this weekend’s tie.

“If we perform like we did in the last 20-25 minutes against Armagh we can go and get a result,” said Casey.

“If we can do that we’ll be a match for anybody, but it’s about getting that, maybe not for 70 minutes, but maybe 50-60 minutes of consistent hurling.

“If we can do that, in my eyes, we’re certainly a match for anybody in this competition.

“The fact that we had to dig deep and show character makes it a more satisfying result, but we just need to build on that.”

Donegal, whose comeback victory over Leitrim confirmed their qualification for the last four, operate in a higher League tier than Saturday’s opponents, but Casey feels his side can match them in the vital areas.

“We know plenty about Donegal and Donegal know plenty about us.

“They’re a good side, they’re a division above us, they’re in 2B.

“They won the Nickey Rackard last season and for whatever reason they didn’t get promoted.

“We’ll go in as underdogs, but we’ll prepare as best we can for Donegal. It’s a semi-final of a championship, anything can happen.”

Tyrone have a habit of making things difficult for themselves, and they were at it again in their group game against their Orchard neighbours.

“I said to the lads at the end of the game, why can we never do things the straightforward way.

“Mickey Little was outstanding, he came out with more ball, Conor McNally, Chris Cairns, you could name them all, the whole lot of them were outstanding, they were under a mountain of pressure but they weren’t letting Armagh get clean ball.”

“If we could do that from day dot, maybe we wouldn’t be nip and tuck at the end of the game. But once we got going, we showed that bit of character.

“Whatever it was that clicked in for us in the second half, we were into the breeze and seven points down at that stage, but we never played until that point.”

Ace attacker Casey, who hit ten points in the victory over Armagh, hailed the battling spirit that emerged when the game appeared to be slipping out of Tyrone’s reach.

“When our backs were against the wall, we came out fighting. There was 20 or 25 minutes of that second half, when we were down to 14 men, that we just battled and battled, kept the score-board going.

“Whenever the ball went in there, we made it stick, kept plugging away, never panicked, and it was great to come out the other side with a result.

“Armagh probably panicked a wee bit, maybe deviated from their original plan of what they would usually do.

“But we stuck to the plan, we just kept going, kept plugging away, got the scores whenever we could take them, and there were even a couple of chances we could have had and didn’t take.”