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Lennon ‘imagines’ a new hurling future in Tyrone

FAST-FORWARD for a moment to the All-Ireland Hurling Final Day in 2030 at Croke Park.

It’s coming up to 3pm as Tyrone’s Christy Ring Cup decider is reaching a critical stage before a growing attendance of over 50,000.

Sitting in the Cusack Stand with a certain twinge of mixed emotions is Mattie Lennon. The Tyrone manager should be able to sit back, content that his vision for the future progression of our national game has finally been recognised.

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But, instead, this closely contested decider is keeping him and everyone else enthralled as they prepare for the Liam McCarthy Cup decider to follow.

Of course, whether that vision of 10 years hence is realised or not remains to be scene. But, as he gets set to prepare for the big championship challenges to follow in this coronavirus year of 2020, Mattie Lennon is even more determined than ever to voice his strong view that a new direction is required.

His vision is for the counties in the lower tiers to be given regular opportunities for summer hurling and to play their finals before the big games in Croke Park.

Put simply, the development of hurling in Ulster and the lower-tier counties appears to be stalling.

It could well be said that they are in a perennial cycle of struggle, with the occasional glimmer of hope extinguished by the traditional obstacles to real progress.

Something different is needed and Lennon is under no doubts about what would represent an important first step.

He has weighed positively in the recent debate about whether there should be a combined Ulster team, but says that even more radical proposals than that should be given an opportunity.

Like playing the Christy Ring, Nickey Rackard and Lory Meagher Finals before the major All-Ireland semi-finals and finals in Croke Park.

Like giving young hurlers in Tyrone, Armagh, Donegal, Monaghan and elsewhere, the incentive to dream about one day displaying their skills on the biggest stage of all and before the largest crowds. 

Maybe he’s a dreamer, but the vision of Mattie Lennon’s is one that many will see as being worthy of pursuing.

“One of the big issues that I continue to have is the fact that counties like Tyrone, Armagh and Donegal play so little summer hurling,” he said.

“We might only have a small number of training sessions on the right surface, when the ball is moving faster and the sooner that our players are playing competitively in July, August and September then they won’t make the right progress.

“Everyone talks about why there isn’t progress being made. Well, give us games at the time of year when we should be playing hurling and see how it will develop.”

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