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Tyrone kids can take us forward: Mattie Donnelly

By John Campbell

Published 10/09/2015

Bright future: Mattie Donnelly believes the young guns can help Tyrone progress next year
Bright future: Mattie Donnelly believes the young guns can help Tyrone progress next year

Tyrone midfield powerhouse Mattie Donnelly believes the young players that Mickey Harte introduced to the squad this year can play a big part in ensuring more progress for the Red Hands in 2016.

In the countdown to this week-end's senior county championship quarter-finals, in which he himself will be lining out for Trillick against Greencastle tomorrow night, Donnelly confirms that even though Harte's future is still in the melting pot, the manner in which he has fuelled his new recruits with confidence will prove a major plus factor next term.

"While the whole focus this weekend will be on our county championship, there is already a level of concentration on next year and this is very much the case in relation to the younger players who have joined the panel," pointed out Donnelly.

"Normally when such players come into a senior squad it might take them a year or two to establish the right mindset for the higher level but in the case of players like Conor Meyler and Mark Bradley and the others that Mickey has brought in, they have settled in quickly and I think we will see the best of them next year.

"They are certainly helping to keep the rest of us on our toes and no one can take anything for granted in terms of selection."

Harte may still be awaiting formal ratification of a further term in his managerial role, but he is not allowing this to detract from his commitment to Tyrone.

It is understood that he plans to take in some of the championship matches and clearly his focus will be on assessing more potential new candidates for the county squad.

"The new guys who have come in expect nothing less than to be winning games," asserted Donnelly. "Mickey has shown great faith in them and even though they missed a portion of the league because they were involved in the Under-21 championship, this did not deter them from blending seamlessly into the senior team when they were given their chance.

"He put them in at the right time and in the right games and they obviously feel - and I know this for a fact - that if Mickey thinks they are good enough, then they are just really keen to prove him right."

The Red Hands battalion of enterprising young guns will certainly be in the shop window over the course of the weekend including Donnelly's brother Richard and the Brennan brothers Lee and Rory, all of whom will be in the Trillick side at Healy Park, Omagh tomorrow night.

And for former county board chairman Ciaran McLaughlin, the quarter-finals will have special resonance.

He is in charge of the Strabane Sigersons side that will confront Killyclogher as part of a tantalising double bill.

McLaughlin was to the fore when numerous initiatives were launched in Tyrone during his term in the chair but now he is strongly focused on seeing his Strabane side thrust themselves up among the big guns.

"The pressure has switched from the board room to the touchline," smiled McLaughlin.

"The Tyrone championship is always fiercely competitive and Killyclogher will be a big test for us."

Killyclogher expect to have the long-serving Dermot Carlin in their ranks along with the talented McCann brothers, Tiarnan and Colm.

Carlin, an All-Ireland winner with the Red Hands, called time on his county career earlier this year after a depressing series of injuries but will bring his experience to bear in Killyclogher's title bid.

Dromore, meanwhile, have suffered a major setback ahead of their encounter against reigning champions Omagh St Enda's on Sunday now that experienced defender Ronan McNabb has been ruled out with a serious knee injury.

McNabb was superb for Tyrone this year and his loss will be felt by a Dromore side that is still hopeful of reclaiming the title they last won in 2011.

Belfast Telegraph

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