Healy Park, Omagh is set to host the third instalment of 2011 between Tyrone and South Down this Saturday afternoon, as both teams attempt to justify their Lory Meagher Cup favourites tags in a mouth watering second round clash. Throw in 2:30pm.
The winners will earn a place in the semi finals of the competition, while the losers will get a second bite at the cherry as they will face the winners from this weekend’s first round losers ties in what will be essentially a quarter final clash. Longford, Leitrim or Warwickshire providing the quarter final opposition for the losers of the games featuring Tyrone vs South Down and Donegal vs Fermanagh.
This latest meeting comes just two weeks after the Red Hands defeated the Mourne men in the Division Four League final, at Armagh. Tyrone winning the game thanks to a sterling second half showing that saw them outscore South Down 1-9 to 0-2 in a dominant showing.
The silverware was a welcome boost to Tyrone hurling but perhaps more importantly was the fact that they regained promotion back into the third division. Tom Magill’s charges have also defeated South Down in the group stages of the league. That game taking place at Liatroim with Tyrone emerging four point winners in a six goal thriller that ended 3-15 to 3-11.
Ideally both teams would have preferred to have avoided each other at this stage of the competition because given the draw there is every possibility that they could in fact be meeting again in the coming weeks. For now though, South Down manager Ronan Sheehan would like to make it a case of third time lucky against the Red Hands, but a trip to Healy Park to take on an unbeaten Tyrone is not the easiest proposition for any team.
South Down have the ability to trouble Tyrone as evidenced in their previous two assignments. Kieran Courtney, Liam Morgan, Paddy Byrne and Michael Cunningham are hurlers of substance who are capable of delivering match winning displays. Tyrone though with home advantage are a team brimming with confidence. Their first round victory over Longford last weekend illustrates their strength in depth as it was achieved without influential leader Justin Kelly.
Kelly is expected to feature this Saturday and, alongside Cathal McErlean, Rory O’Neill, Peter O’Connor and captain Sean Paul Begley, Tom Magill’s charges should be looking forward to a break, as they await the winners from the quarter finals in the last four. Can South Down upset their plans? All will be revealed around 4pm or so on Saturday afternoon.