Derry hurlers target second Christy Ring victory as Tyrone arrive in Owenbeg

​Derry senior hurlers will be seeking a second successive Christy Ring Cup victory when they meet Tyrone for a third time this season at Owenbeg on Saturday (throw-in 1pm).
Tyrone and Derry players contest a loose sliothar during the league meeting between the counties. Photo: George SweeneyTyrone and Derry players contest a loose sliothar during the league meeting between the counties. Photo: George Sweeney
Tyrone and Derry players contest a loose sliothar during the league meeting between the counties. Photo: George Sweeney

Johnny McGarvey's Oak Leafers have already defeated the Red Hands twice in 2024, first in their league opener at Celtic Park and most recently in the Division 2B final at Owenbeg three weeks ago. It's a run of results that sees Derry favourites this weekend despite McGarvey admitting he’s not a fan of repeat clashes in such close proximity.

"It is a case of, because we've won the first two meetings this season, I don't really like the fact we’re meeting Tyrone a third time," admitted the Derry manager, "You always have that concern the opposition is going to have extra motivation but then again, this is championship hurling; if you're not motivated you probably shouldn't be here

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"Tyrone will come and they will be well set up. I suspect it will be a similar game to the league final and we have to be well prepared. If we are I believe we are good enough to beat anybody. Of course you’d rather not be playing the same team three times in a season but you have to deal with it."

That league final saw Derry eventually emerge 1-14 to 1-08 winners but it wasn't until the introduction of second half substitute Sean Kelly, who hit 1-01, that Derry were able to gain any degree of control over a dogged Tyrone side.

"Tyrone are a good side, we know that from the previous meetings," added McGarvey, "Until we got the (Sean Kelly) goal in the final Tyrone looked the more comfortable team with the way the game was going.

"We've watched it back a couple of times since and I would hope Saturday's match is nothing like that game. I’d hope this weekend would be a bit more open and we can spread the ball about better, but I'm sure Tyrone are not just going to stand back and let us do that. I want us to play better, that's the main thing."

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

With Derry, London and favourites Kildare all registering first round victories, McGarvey knows the importance of avoiding any slips in a championship group that’s more of a sprint than marathon. With the top two advancing to the final and the Lilywhites, who dropped down from last season's Joe McDonagh Cup, expected to qualify, there’s no room for error.

"I'm realistic enough to acknowledge Kildare are the clear favourites to win the championship so you’d have to think they're going to win the majority of their matches," explained McGarvey, "Every other team including ourselves will believe they can beat them but they're certainly favourites. They’ll expect to win their games so it's hugely important against everybody else. That makes every other game vital

"There's no question about it. Tyrone come to us in a 'must win' position. I don't mind saying that if we beat Tyrone then Tyrone are out. Those are the margins. That's why early points are so important.

"The way the competition is, there are only five games so you have to get your wins. We went to the final last season on three wins and a draw but that very nearly became a head-to-head between ourselves and Tyrone, that's how close things can get if you slip at all.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

"We only have two home matches this season and this is our first so we're delighted. It's not a massive advantage but it would be nice to see some support out and getting behind the boys this weekend."

Related topics: