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Donegal v Tyrone: Donnelly happy long waiting game is over

By John Campbell

Mark Donnelly’s long wait to make his Ulster senior football championship debut for Tyrone finally ended when he started against Monaghan earlier this month.

Such was the composure, effort and work rate that he displayed at Healy Park Omagh then that manager Mickey Harte has had no hesitation in giving him a vote of confidence for tomorrow’s semi-final against Donegal.

For someone who spent a year in Australia following his graduation and who had all but given up on an inter-county career, this summer suddenly holds rich promise for 27-year-old Donnelly.

“I knew when I came back into the Tyrone panel that I would have to work very hard if I was ever to get into the side,” explains Donnelly, a schoolteacher in Carrickmore.

“But when I got my chance in the Dr McKenna Cup and then played some league games this gave me the incentive to make a bid for a championship starting place.”

He maximised his opportunity against Monaghan and goes in against a Donegal side which he believes is now showing its full potential.

“They have become very difficult to play against because of the way they can get players back behind the ball. It is going to be very tough for us tomorrow,” admits Donnelly.

“I would imagine that our aim will be to get the ball in as quickly as we can to avoid them getting their men back. We will certainly have to work very hard if we are to win this one.”

With just one championship game under his belt he knows he is very much a rookie in a Tyrone side that contains many players who have three All-Ireland medals in their possession.

His Carrickmore club colleague Conor Gormley is one of those and he has been a special source of encouragement to Donnelly.

“He has always been spurring me on and giving me good advice, especially on occasions when I thought I would never make it. You could not be taking your lead from a better person than Conor.”

And such is his faith in the Tyrone management set-up that he will carry a ring of confidence into tomorrow’s contest.

“I have no doubt that Mickey Harte will have devised a way of dealing with Donegal’s tactics,” says Donnelly, “And I think that Fergal’s McCann’s training sessions are first-class. The work we do under him actually makes it easier when it comes to playing games.”

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