Saturday 25 February 2017

Tyrone's 'unknown' captain sees flaws in system

Cliona Foley

Cliona Foley

Tyrone captain Damien Casey knows for a Dungannon man to choose hurling over football is always going to lead him down a much windier sporting path
Tyrone captain Damien Casey knows for a Dungannon man to choose hurling over football is always going to lead him down a much windier sporting path

His team won an All-Ireland title last year and a National League title this year.

He also played Fitzgibbon Cup this year for the Ulster University in Jordanstown yet most people in his native county would not recognise Damien Casey.

The Tyrone hurling captain and accountancy student doesn't mind.

He knows for a Dungannon man to choose hurling over football is always going to lead him down a much windier sporting path.

When you're a Tyrone hurler you don't expect any 'selfie' requests. It's just the system that sometimes annoys you.

Tyrone won the Nicky Rackard Cup last year yet start their championship campaign in the same competition today because they refused to engage in a play-off against Down to get into the Christy Ring.

They've since won Division 3A but won't play in 2B next year either because they lost a promotion/relegation play-off to Donegal.

It is a recurring problem for them and their refusal to play off last summer to move up was a form of protest. Casey doesn't deny it.

"We felt it wasn't right, it wasn't fair. Armagh, who were the so-called weakest team in the Christy Ring, came straight down but nobody went (straight) up. We were expected to play Down who were the so-called second weakest team.

"Why can't you go straight up? If you win your Nicky Rackard and you win your league, as we did this year, and you're still having to play your relegation game, where's the advantage to the team that's winning? Where's the motivation to keep doing it?

"If you're not good enough then you'll come back down the following year anyway," he points out. "There's no motivation, there's no advantage, there's nothing for the team that's winning to go up. It's very frustrating."

That the system is stacked against them is an opinion shared by many of those playing in hurling's three second-tier championships which all start today.

Tyrone have been on a bit of roll since Mattie Lennon and David Kennedy took over last year and their 2B promotion loss to Donegal (after a replay) was their first loss since.

That's why they face such a tricky opener today in Letterkenny. They certainly won't want for motivation for this one.

Indo Sport

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