Casey the star as Red Hands serve up big shock
Tyrone hurling manager Mattie Lennon had steeled his players for a massive challenge when they confronted Mayo in the Nicky Rackard Cup at Healy Park, Omagh yesterday.
But even the ebullient Lennon could not have anticipated the towering performance which his side would offer or indeed the magnificent solo scoring show provided by Damian Casey.
The Red Hands, two divisions lower than Mayo in the Allianz League ratings, cocked a snook at the formbook by coming out on top in a titanic tussle by 1-15 to 0-16.
It was a display underpinned by character, skill and courage but most of all by the ice-cool temperament of Casey who inspired his side throughout.
No wonder Lennon was effusive in his praise for the Tyrone players at the finish.
"I thought the boys put in a huge effort and they got their just reward for this.
"I have been of the opinion that hurling championship matches played in tandem with football championship games would give the hurlers in particular a better stage on which to perform, and that is precisely what happened on this occasion," said Lennon.
"We set out from the start to impose ourselves on Mayo and that's what we succeeded in doing.
"Obviously there are big challenges ahead but this win gives us great heart going forward. We had new guys in the team and this was a great experience for them in particular.
Tyrone hit the ground running and in the opening minutes Casey signalled the level of danger he would pose for the Mayo defence.
He hit 1-12 in all, his goal proving crucial after Mayo had threatened to seize the initiative.
Lorcan Devlin, Chris Kearns and Ryan McKernan were also prominent as the Tyrone side held out in a tense finish to take a decisive step forward in the All-Ireland series.
Derry, meanwhile, carried too much firepower for Down in the Christy Ring Cup and won by 3-20 to 2-14 with the elusive Cormac O'Doherty landing two of their goals and the other coming from the polished Se McGuigan.
Meanwhile, Armagh proved too strong for their neighbours Monaghan in the Nicky Rackard Cup, winning by 2-20 to 2-14 at the Athletic Grounds where their goals came from Dylan McKenna and Nathan Curry, while Tadgh Campbell and Fergal Rafter pocketed Monaghan's goals.
Armagh manager Padraig O'Connor, while happy with his team's win, believes they will be confronted by more difficult tasks.
The team endured an indifferent Allianz League campaign but O'Connor has introduced some fresh blood and the indications are that the orchard county can now make headway.
Antrim and Down were on the receiving end of heavy defeats in the Leinster minor hurling championship.
The Saffrons capitulated to Laois by 6-20 to 0-14 while Down were swept aside by Carlow on a score of 6-20 to 0-5.
The nature of the defeats could give rise for debate on the viability of the teams taking part in the Leinster series where the overall standard would appear to be much higher than in Ulster.