Donnelly mindful of Cavan threat

By Niall Gartland

THE serious stuff starts now in the Ulster Minor Championship and Tyrone minor boss Gerry Donnelly recognises that they can’t afford to take Cavan lightly in Saturday’s quarter-final clash in Omagh.

Donnelly is in his fourth season in the hotseat and he’s seen just about everything in his time in charge, from Ulster title wins, an agonising All-Ireland final defeat in 2021 and a penalty shoot-out loss in last year’s championship to Monaghan which marked an abrupt end to their campaign.

If Tyrone progress this weekend, not only will they line out in an upcoming last-four clash for a place in the Ulster final, but they take another step in the overall race for the All-Ireland at ‘A’ level.

But if they lose either now or in the semi-finals, they will participate in a newly introduced All-Ireland
‘B’ competition and that’s an outcome they’d very much prefer to avoid.

Tyrone qualified for the quarters having finished second in the group stages, meaning they’ll have to play an extra game than their potential semi-final opponents Donegal or Derry, both of whom received a bye into the last four.

Speaking ahead of Saturday’s game against the Breffni County, Donnelly said that isn’t a particularly big concern of theirs at present: “Our full focus has always been on the next game. We know we’ll have to go away from home in the semi-finals if we progress but we’ll worry about Cavan first.

“We’re now into knock-out football and the pitfalls are the same whether we’re in the quarters or semi-finals, we have to go and win the game regardless of the stage we’re at.”

Tyrone endured a disappointing defeat to Donegal in the second round of group stages but they dusted themselves down and claimed a resounding win over Monaghan in their third and final game. Donnelly wasn’t getting carried away with their 4-13 to 0-10 win over the Farney, however.

“It was one of those cases where I don’t think Monaghan’s that bad and maybe we’re not as good as that performance showed.

“We definitely played well though and the boys are improving, there’s no doubt about that. The bond between the lads is growing and we’re just hoping we can keep it going for another while longer. One day we’re good, the next day we can be poor so we just have to make sure we have the right mindset on Saturday.”

While Tyrone will be quietly confident of doing the business against Cavan, nor has it gone unnoticed by Donnelly that the Breffni lads weren’t a million miles away from pulling off an upset against an impressive Derry side in the group stages, losing out by 1- 8 to 1-5.

“We haven’t played them this year but from what I hear they’re a big strong team and they ran Derry really close twice. They’ve good footballers and have Joshua Shehu who was a Colleges All-Star. They’re well-coached, Sean Smith is a top class manager and he’ll have them ready to go. They won’t fear coming to Omagh and that’s the potential pitfall we have to be mindful of.”

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