Donnelly praises impact of Tyrone U20 stars

By Niall Gartland

TYRONE stalwart Mattie Donnelly has praised the recently recruited members of the county’s all-conquering U20 team for the energy and drive they have brought to the senior set-up.

Donnelly’s composure in front of the posts is just one of his many attributes as a footballer, and he steered over four points from play in the second-half of a 3-15 to 0-10 victory over Clare at the weekend.

However, he wasn’t the only one who caught the eye as Tyrone cruised across the finish line to get their group stage campaign up and running at the second time of asking.

Dynamic wing-back Shea O’Hare made his senior intercounty debut when sprung from the bench with fifteen minutes remaining, and he made an immediate impression, seeking out possession and picking holes in the Clare defence.

He’s one of four members of the All-Ireland U20 winning squad to have been called up by Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan, and Donnelly says they’re a natural fit for this level.

“The four of them have brought a lot of energy, and it’s been a real eye-opener to the rest of us boys, we can see the energy and running power they’ve brought to proceedings.

“It’s definitely upped the ante at training and you only saw the tip of the iceberg with Shea coming on and making his appearance.

“He didn’t look out of place, he brought a lot to the game and the other lads are capable of doing that as well. There’s a lot of players on the panel on the moment who mightn’t be getting game-time but they’re definitely capable of it and that’s great from a training perspective and is very important for us over the next few weeks.”

The Red Hands didn’t set the world alight in the first-half against the Banner County, but the floodgates eventually opened with Donnelly exemplifying all that was good about their play in the second-half.

“In fairness I was disappointed with our first-half in general including my own performance. We were in a sticky enough position, so it was about doubling down and working a bit harder.

“I worked hard to get into the right positions and thankfully I was on the end of a few selfless passes and then it’s your job to put the ball over the bar.

“The team as a whole worked hard to get into the scoring zone and we were making better decisions as well. I’m happy enough with how it went in that respect but like the team I still have a lot to work on.”

It was crucially important for Tyrone to get back on the wagon after their disappointing defeat to Donegal against Ballybofey in their first outing of the All-Ireland group stages.

Seven points separated the sides at the final whistle and Tyrone could have no complaints about the outcome, but at the same time Donnelly said that it was vital not to let it derail their season.

“The thing about it is, it was still a one-point game at 60 minutes. We were disappointed with how it petered out, and we left the door open for them to exploit us, but for all we could’ve done better, we knew it wasn’t as bad as it seemed on the scoreboard.

“We were we weren’t as far away as that. We’ve still work to do, but we know we have a lot going for us, so we’re focused on driving on while also refining what we can do better.”

Tyrone will take on Cork in their third and final round robin clash in just over a week’s time knowing that things are still very much up in the air as far as the final standings are concerned. All they can do is take care of their own business, and if they do that, they can still feasibly finish top of the table depending on how Donegal fare against Clare.

“That’s all we want, to go out and get a win. You don’t want to be depending on anyone else and we’re not.

“We’re just going to focus on getting a performance and a result against Cork and whatever happens happens.

“We’ve lost a bit of control over things because of our result against Donegal, but what we can control is how we get on against Cork and we know we have to refine a few things. We know they’re going to be really dangerous, and they’ll be feeling good about themselves after their win over Donegal. I’ve always followed them from afar because I know how talented they are, and I know a few of the boys down there as well. They’re extremely dangerous when they get going and we need to be ready for that.”

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