TYRONE manager Michael McShane believes his players will travel to Castlebar with a pep in their step and a rising level of confidence following their battling display in the county’s first ever appearance in the Christy Ring Cup.
The Red Hands fought back from nine points down to earn a 2-20 to 2-20 draw with Derry in a thrilling tie at O’Neills Healy Park last weekend.
“I was so pleased because we were eight points down at half-time and to show the courage to come out and play the way that they did,” said McShane.
“We kept saying during the week that if we can go into the last quarter the crowd will get behind us and drive on. Obviously the lads aren’t used to playing before a crowd of that size and that’s the way it was.
“They showed great courage and shot some fabulous scores against a very good Derry team who I would rate as favourites for the Christy Ring. We could have won it and that would have been great.”
Mayo, who lost to Meath in their opening game, will be desperate to get their first points on the board as they go into a must-win tie on home soil.
But Tyrone, who won the Nicky Rackard Cup last year, have shown that they can compete against teams from a higher grade.
“I never doubted that it would be the case, because there’s a lot of good players in the Tyrone panel and probably people haven’t got to see them enough.
“But we had a League campaign which was fairly mixed and we won two and lost three so we could have been in the League final and in the run for promotion.
“Derry was a step up again and I was delighted with the way that the players showed themselves and everyone out there that they were a good team and they are worthy of their place in this competition.
“If you’re playing against better teams then you become a better player. That’s what you’re playing tougher opposition for. I would go as far as saying that what we got out of the first half was getting up to the level that they were at in the second half and the pace that they were playing at.
“But we got up to that pace early in the second half and all of a
sudden that eight-point margin didn’t look so big.”
Tireless hours spent working on the skills of the game have helped the Red Hands develop a controlled and expansive style of hurling that suits the talented players in their squad.
The progress has been tangible during McShane’s three seasons at the helm, and reached a new level in their derby clash with the Oak Leafers.
“Your technical ability is something that you have to work on. One thing that you’ve control of is how much effort you put in and that’s where you go.
You don’t have to be technically great to win a ruck, but you have to have the desire.”
The late equaliser from Sean Duffin last weekend was no more than the Red Hands deserved from their Ring Cup debut, according to the manager.
“A draw was probably the best result because when they put over their last point we thought it was gone and then we had one more chance and Sean scored,” said the manager.
“I don’t think anyone would argue that in the cold light of day everyone should be happy with the draw.”