Richie keeping a close eye on club colleagues

NEW Trillick captain Richie Donnelly will continue to keep a close eye on the fortunes of his club colleagues when Tyrone’s Ulster Championship campaign commences on Sunday week with a visit to Kingspan Breffni to take on preliminary round victors Cavan.

The Reds claimed a memorable league and championship double last season and young guns Ciarán Daly and Liam Gray were drafted into the senior intercounty set-up on the back of their eye-catching performances on the club scene.

Gray’s progress was hampered by a hand injury but he recovered to take his place in the match-day panel at the tail-end of the league, while Ciarán Daly and Seanie O’Donnell played a full and vibrant role throughout their NFL Division One campaign.

Richie’s brother Mattie Donnelly, meanwhile, has battled back to the field of play after sustaining a serious leg injury last August, accruing valuable game-time in the final two rounds of the league.

Richie, who has opted out of senior intercounty commitments this year, has been glad to see the newer Trillick lads making their mark at county level.

“I’ve been watching them very closely and with great pleasure too. Ciarán and Seanie have both slotted in very well, they’ve given a great account of themselves.

“They’ve both shown they’re at a really good level and can have a good career at intercounty level. Liam has been hampered by injury but he’s back in the mix now so it’ll be interesting to see how he grows and develops.”

Tyrone’s upcoming opponents Cavan booked their spot in the first-round proper with an impressive preliminary round victory over their age-old Monaghan last Sunday. The Red Hands have dominated matters against Cavan in recent decades (and that’s an understatement – Tyrone are unbeaten in ten championship duels since 1986), but Breffni confidence will be high after their conquest of Monaghan and they have the potential to make Kingspan Breffni an unwelcoming environment.

They also now have Stephen O’Neill – former Red Hand All-Ireland winning attacker and Clann na nGael clubmate of Tyrone joint manager Brian Dooher – as part of their backroom team this season.

Donnelly said: “Cavan people will bring a big crowd and a huge voice to that game, and that’s something Tyrone will prepare for.

“It’ll be a very hostile environment but these are the type of Championship games you want to play in. A lot of the Tyrone boys have experience of playing in that type of environment so it’s something they’ll embrace as opposed to seeing it as a bad thing.”

Trillick will get their first competitive game of the season this Sunday when they travel to Ardboe for their first-round clash in the newly revived Jim Devlin Cup.

It should prove a useful exercise with the All County Leagues set to commence in late May and hopes will be high of another successful season spanning league and championship football. Richie will captain the side this year, a privilege he certainly doesn’t take for granted.

“It’s a great honour, it wasn’t something that wasn’t on my radar personally but it’s something I’ve a lot of pride in. My father’s done it, my brother’s done it, so it’s something I take huge pride in and I’m greatly honoured to do it.”

Receive quality journalism wherever you are, on any device. Keep up to date from the comfort of your own home with a digital subscription.
Any time | Any place | Anywhere


Gaelic Life is published by North West of Ireland Printing & Publishing Company Limited, trading as North-West News Group.
Registered in Northern Ireland, No. R0000576. 10-14 John Street, Omagh, Co. Tyrone, N. Ireland, BT781DW