By Barry O’Donnell
CARRYING the momentum from the latter stages of the National League into the Championship is the prime objective of Tyrone heading into Sunday’s clash with Monaghan, seasoned operator Mattie Donnelly insists.
It could be argued that the individual display produced by the Trillick ace in the vital home victory over Kerry was one of the pivotal reasons why the Red Hands were able to turn fortunes in their favour in the closing stretch of their Division One campaign.
After suffering heavy road losses out west against Galway and Mayo, the spectre of relegation was looming large over Tyrone, and those concerns deepened when Kerry swooped for an early goal at Healy Park.
However inspired by a man of the match performance from Donnelly, the home side dug themselves out of jail in that encounter, and subsequent league victories against neighbours Monaghan and Armagh ensured their top flight status for another season.
The League has been put to bed now as Tyrone ready themselves for another tilt at the Anglo-Celt Cup, but Donnelly stresses that the upward graph in terms of application and attitude must be maintained now that the Championship is upon us.
“The best medicine in the world is a win and once you start winning it can change the perception of everything. You are never too far away, wee tweaks here and there and the dynamics change a lot whether that is getting goals or sustaining injuries.
“I think over the last few games we have got better at recognising those key moments and have come out on the right side of them. Obviously we got a few harsh lessons at the start of the league but it was all about digesting those lessons and learning from it and we have been doing that.
“It’s good to finish the league with three straight wins to keep the momentum going but that still doesn’t mask over the fact that we have work to do ahead of our Championship opener with Monaghan.”
Just as Tyrone are heading into the Championship in buoyant mood, the same feel good factor is no doubt also sweeping through the Farney camp after their heroics on the last day of the league in Castlebar to fend off the drop.
Mattie Donnelly appreciates that Vinny Corey will have his charges fired up for their trip to Omagh this weekend.
“Monaghan are a renowned Championship team with a good record in the Ulster Championship and a lot of their boys will be looking for another medal in the back pocket and they will see this year as a good opportunity to do that.
“They will be quietly happy where they are at going into the game and obviously we will be taking nothing for granted as we have been nipped enough by them in the past.”
Tyrone took the spoils last month at Clones in the League, but with Monaghan down to thirteen men in the second half, Mattie insisted that clash could not be used as a reliable gauge as to how this Sunday will unfold.
“The Championship has always been a different ball game than the League. It is maybe a bit different this year and it was always important to get momentum because the Championship is right on your doorstep after the League is over. The game that unfolded against Monaghan in the League at Clones is going to be nothing like the upcoming Championship game. We are well aware of that and we haven’t forgot that the last time they played us in Omagh they nipped us as well so we have a lot to work on and we will be very focused for that game.”
Tyrone supporters will be heartened by the side’s current form and will be especially encouraged to see the likes of Ronan McNamee come back into the fray last time out against Armagh. Donnelly was equally delighted to see the experienced Aghyaran defender make his first competitive start of 2023.
“It was great to see Ronan McNamee back in action and getting a couple of points and Michael McGleenan coming on and taking a great score.
“What people don’t see is the work that they have put in to get back to full fitness on nights when they were working away on their own.
“That can be a lonely place so it was deadly to see them express that in front of a crowd. We have more players to come back as well and we have unearthed a number of great talents during the league and the squad is in a good place.”