Hurling & Camogie

Emotional evening as Tyrone hurlers honour memory of Damian Casey with win in first competitive outing since his passing

Tyrone players prior to their Allianz Hurling League Division 2B match against London on Saturday evening at Eoghan Ruadh, Dungannon      Picture: Oliver McVeigh
Tyrone players prior to their Allianz Hurling League Division 2B match against London on Saturday evening at Eoghan Ruadh, Dungannon Picture: Oliver McVeigh

Allianz Hurling League Division 2B: Tyrone 1-26 London 3-18

The grieving process continues, and a first opportunity to publicly and collectively honour the memory of the great Damian Casey inspired the Tyrone hurlers to a thrilling victory over London.

Trailing by four points with less than ten minutes to play, the newly promoted Red Hands found inspiration late on to fashion a heart-warming Division 2B win at Eoghan Ruadh Dungannon, the home ground of their sorely missed icon.

It was club-mate Mickey Little who took on the free-taking responsibilities that the late Damian fulfilled with spectacular success for over a decade, and his 11-point haul, including two clinching scores late on, tipped the balance in favour of the battling home side.

“I told Mickey after the game how proud I was of him, and more importantly how proud Damian would be of him,” said manager Michael McShane.

“It’s not an easy role to come in and take over the role of free-taker for Tyrone after how Damian was for 10 years.”

McShane hailed the courage and desire shown by his players in their determination to make this an occasion they could reflect on with pride.

“We said there was only one way to serve Damian’s memory and that was to keep Tyrone winning, because that was all Damian ever wanted.

“There was a lot of courage and a lot of guts shown there at the end, and I knew that we would have that, because there was a desire there from the draw was made and it was a home game.”

It started badly for Tyrone as they faced down a London side stacked with players from the hurling heartlands of Limerick, Kilkenny, Galway, Tipperary, Waterford and Clare.

It was a Kerryman who plundered a goal after just 25 seconds, Jack Goulding hitting the net to help the Exiles push four clear.

The Red Hands held their nerve, getting momentum going as Lorcan Devlin, Sean Duffin and Little fired over points.

And they went ahead when Devlin finished Duffin’s sideline cut to the net in the 14th minute.

London regained the lead eight minutes before the break when Goulding grabbed his second goal, to add to a string of Ronan Crowley scores, but Little’s accuracy from distance sent the side in level at the interval, 1-11 to 2-8.

Defensive heroics from Chris Kearns, Ruairi Devlin and Oran McKee held things steady, and a superb solo score from Ruairi Slane had Tyrone three clear going into the final quarter.

But London found another flourish, hitting 1-4 in a seven-minute spell, substitute Niall Broderick scrambling home their 62nd minute goal.

Tyrone dug deep again to get themselves level for the ninth time through centre back Kearns, but Goulding edged the Metropolitans back in front from a free in stoppage time.

The Red Hands needed something special, and found it from deep in their collective soul, with Conor Grogan’s brilliant leveller followed by two long range specials from the ice-cool Little.

Tyrone: C McElhatton; O McKee, R Devlin, T Morgan; R Slane (0-3), C Kearns (0-2), C Devlin; SP McKernan, B McGurk; CJ McGourty (0-3), A Crossan, S Duffin (0-4); M Little (0-11, 0-8 frees, 0-3 65s), L Devlin (1-1), L Dunphy (0-1).

Subs: C Grogan (0-1) for Morgan.

London: P Collins; E Phelan, S Bordon, P O’Toole; C Byrne, N Geoghan, E Ryan; D Heffernan, S Glynn (0-1); R Crowley (0-7, 0-4 frees), C O’Carroll (0-1), E McHugh (0-4, 0-1 free); A Cunney, C McCormack (0-1), J Goulding (2-4, 0-1 free).

Subs: N Broderick (1-0) for O’Carroll, D Barron for Cunney, M Flannery for Crowley

Referee: P Owens (Down).