TYRONE hurling captain Dermot Begley is expecting their toughest match of a thus far successful league campaign in Sunday’s clash against Monaghan.
The Tyrone hurlers made it two-from-two in Division 3A with a scintillating victory over Louth nearly a fortnight ago – but it’s still a bit soon to gauge how their campaign is likely to pan out as they haven’t faced Armagh, Roscommon, or indeed Monaghan yet.
Nevertheless, back-to-back wins over Lancashire and Louth isn’t to be sniffed at, particularly as they had a rotten start to last year’s league, so their captain Dermot Begley is pleased with how things are shaping up.
“Things went well in the pre-season, lads really put the effort in and it’s really paid off in the last couple of games,” he said.
“We played in the McGurk Cup and we got two solid performances even though we didn’t get the results we were looking. We got plenty of game-time for younger lads coming into the squad and that really helped us heading into the Lancashire game.”
Monaghan boss Trevor Hilliard has told the Ulster Herald that he expects to have his Castleblaney contingent this Sunday, seven days after they fell agonisingly short against 1/66 favourites Dunnamaggin in the All-Ireland Junior final.
Eire Og clubman Dermot Begley has played Monaghan on umpteen occasions throughout his career, so he has a fair idea of what to expect this weekend.
“Monaghan’s always been a tough task – there’s one thing you’re always going to get with Monaghan and that’s a good hard fight. We have to go at it as hard as we can whether they have the Castleblaney boys or not.”
Tyrone will be particularly encouraged by their early-season form considering the pre-season retirements of stalwarts Sean Og Grogan and Stephen Donnelly.
“Some newer faces are already making their mark, including Omagh man Ciaran Lagan, who scored two excellent points from play against Louth.
“There were a lot of changes over the winter, and the team looks a lot different this year,” said Begley.
“People might say it’s not as strong as it was as there aren’t as many familiar names, but it’s a very good young squad. There’s 28 lads going hell for leather to get into that team. We thought losing experienced players would be an issue but so far it hasn’t been.”
Begley says Tyrone want to follow in the footsteps of Donegal, who more than held their own in Division 2B last season.
A promotion place isn’t beyond reach if they keep up their current form, albeit Armagh have been highly impressive in their two games to date and also notched a convincing win over Tyrone in the pre-season Conor McGurk tournament.
“Promotion into Division 2B would be a massive step for us. Donegal proved last year that they’re more than fit for that level of hurling and we want to emulate them. It’d be great to have the chance to play against the Derry and Downs of this world.”