Tyrone’s second season in Division Two of the Allianz Hurling League will be as great a test of survival as the first, according to new manager Stephen McGarry.
It’s the highest status the county has ever held in the small ball game, and having proved their worth in 2023, the Red Hands are ready to push on.
They face Derry in a derby opener on Sunday at Celtic Park, the first of a series of tough ties.
“We’re very new to Division 2B and to Christy Ring hurling, we’ve never been there before in Tyrone’s history,” said McGarry.
“But going in last year, to retain our status was massive for us.
“But you have to go out and prove it again and again and again.
“I believe that whenever we have all our players out, and when everybody is committed to it, that we’re more than worthy of playing at that level.
“But that’s not a given, you have to go out and do it on the day.”
McGarry, a coach under former Tyrone boss Michael McShane for the past three seasons, will ask nothing more from his players than to fulfil their potential each time they pull on the county jersey.
“I want to be competitive any time we go out on to the field.
“Should it be a challenge game against Antrim at the beginning of January, or should it be in the middle of the Christy Ring or the National League, I’ll just ask the players to be competitive every time they go out and play the best hurling that they can.”
Sunday’s tie opens a double-headers that also features the Allianz League Division One tie between the footballers of Derry and Tyrone, guaranteeing a stirring derby atmosphere at the city venue.
A handful of prospects who impressed in the pre-season Conor McGurk Cup are set to get their first taste of league action in the absence of a few established players who are unavailable.
“We’ll embrace the challenge, and with the new lads coming in, it will be an opportunity for them to test themselves.
“There’s no hiding the fact that we’re missing a lot of players from last year, big characters, between travelling arrangements and retirements.
“But it’s a good opportunity for players coming through. So whenever you lose a few of your leaders, it’s time for other boys to step up.
“Derry put Meath to the pin of their collar in the Christy Ring Cup last year, and they have improved, which is to be expected, after their U20 success.
“But it’s a one-off game and our boys will enjoy the challenge of it.
“We’re relatively new to Division 2B, so playing against the likes of Derry isn’t a given for us.”