Cups can bring redemption for Derry and Tyrone
Two Ulster counties which endured fraught campaigns in the Allianz League hope to chart a path to atonement when the lower-tier All-Ireland Championship series swings into action on Saturday.
Derry were relegated from Division 2 following a five-match whitewash while Tyrone only managed to preserve their status in Division 3A by beating Fermanagh in a promotion/relegation shoot-out.
On Saturday, Derry face a tricky assignment against Roscommon in the Christy Ring Cup while Tyrone will be confronted by an equally demanding mission against Mayo in the Nicky Rackard Cup.
Oak Leaf manager Tom McLean was disappointed that his side were not afforded what he referred to as "the luxury" of a promotion/relegation play-off in Division 2 but accepts that his side now have an opportunity to put their best foot forward.
"The league was a bitter disappointment but we must now focus on the Christy Ring Cup. We reached the closing stages last year only to lose 11 players after that for various reasons and this impacted our chances of making progress this year," said McLean.
Tyrone vice-captain Damien Casey believes his team's survival can provide the impetus for a potentially rewarding Cup innings.
"We have a decent chance of doing well," mused Casey. "Our manager Kevin Ryan has put in a lot of work and we have players like Conor Grugan, Tiarnan Morgan and captain Aidan Kelly who can show the way for us."