HOPE is springing eternal for the Tyrone hurlers as they embark on yet another Nickey Rackard campaign with the ultimate aim of a glorious victory at Croke Park to sustain them into the future.
Last year, the Red Hands progressed all the way to the semi-final of the competition. Defeat on that occasion came against Donegal, but there is a renewed determination among the squad to once again make a strong bid for honours in 2021.
Their campaign opens at the Athletic Grounds against Armagh today. Games between the two are invariably close, and often have a major bearing on Tyrone’s future prospects. It looks set to be no different again this weekend, as victory for both counties would catapult them into pole positions in that quest to reach the later stages.
Under the new management of Michael McShane, Tyrone are, of course, embarking on something of a rebuilding process. New and young players such as Anthony Crossan, Mickey Little, Cian Ferguson, Lorcan Devlin and Dean Rafferty have all been gradually gaining in experience both this season and in the past two or three years.
All of this is helping to take the pressure of ace scoretaker, Damien Casey. However, the Dungannon player remains a vital member of the team and is well aware of the importance of this latest clash against Armagh on Saturday afternoon.
The two counties met in the National League just a few weeks ago. Armagh won by three points then, leaving Tyrone anxious to overturn that result as they bid to make their mark in a competition also including Division 2B teams, Mayo and Donegal.
“We have been very familiar with Armagh during the past few years and both of us know a lot about the other.
“The league has left us with a good degree of confidence which is exactly what you want going into the Nickey Rackard Cup,” he said.
“Michael (McShane) has brought in a few new players which is helping because there’s always a few knocks at this time of year. A lot of the lads have been patient and are giving Mickey something to think about for the championship.”
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