Hurling & Camogie

London a testing opener for Tyrone in Division 2A campaign

Lorcan Devlin (right) will be among the key men for Tyrone in their Allianz Hurling League Division 2A campaign Picture: Philip Walsh
Lorcan Devlin (right) will be among the key men for Tyrone in their Allianz Hurling League Division 2A campaign Picture: Philip Walsh

Allianz Hurling League Division 2B: Tyrone v London (Saturday, Eoghan Ruadh Dungannon, 7pm)

LIFE in Division 2B begins for Tyrone this evening as they host London under the floodlights at Eoghan Ruadh Dungannon.

It will be a poignant occasion at the home ground of the late Damian Casey, the Red Hands’ first game without their brilliant attacker in more than a decade.

Manager Michael McShane believes Damian will be the ‘silent driving force’ for his side tonight and in the season ahead.

“He was a very proud Tyrone hurling man and he wanted Tyrone hurling to be in the best possible place it could be.

“That’s probably the silent driving force for everybody – players and management,” said McShane.

Conor Grogan, Chris Kearns, Dermot Begley, Lorcan Devlin and Ruairi Slane will be key men for the newly promoted Division 3A and Nickey Rackard Cup champions in the first test of their ability to compete at a higher level.

Tyrone manager Michael McShane
Tyrone manager Michael McShane

McShane doesn’t quite know what to expect from a London side that tends to fluctuate in terms of personnel from season to season.

“London are always an unknown quantity, because their teams tend to change from year to year, with people moving in and out of London.

“But they have been playing Division 2B hurling and Christy Ring Cup for the last number of years, so they’re a very strong outfit, no matter what the group of players that they have.

“They’ll have players from southern counties who have been working in and around county teams down there, so we’re under no illusions about how difficult that game is going to be.

“That’s our main focus, it’s our first game, and we’ll not look past it.”

The Ballycastle man has been encouraged by the preparations made by a committed squad of players during pre-season.

“We have been working hard since the end of November, putting our panel together for the National League, and we have had a great buy-in, and we’re delighted with the way things are going.”

The Division 2B campaign promises to be a testing one for a Tyrone team that will have to be at its competitive best to pick up results, with games against Donegal, Meath, Sligo and Wicklow coming up in the weeks ahead.

“We were acutely aware of the fact when we won Division Three last year that we were going up to a new level, and every game, as they were last year, is going to be difficult,” McShane admitted.

“But we’re very confident in our own ability. Last year and all the success that we had has given everybody great confidence, and we’ll go up there and we’ll try and compete as best we can.”

He feels that if Tyrone can garner enough results to keep them in the division, an objective will have been achieved.

“I suppose it would probably be a successful year if we could retain our position in Division 2B and consolidate that.

“We’ll take it game by game and we’ll try and build as we go along, and get better and see where it takes us.”