Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 December 2014

Mattie Donnelly making most of Tyrone opportunity

Mattie Donnelly is relishing full-forward role
Mattie Donnelly is relishing full-forward role

Few managers have nurtured the virtue of versatility to quite the same extent as Tyrone boss Mickey Harte.

Several of his current squad – including Peter Harte, Niall McKenna, Ronan O'Neill, Conor Clarke and Ciaran McGinley – are capable of playing in more than one position and this is just one of the reasons why the Red Hands find themselves in pole position for tomorrow night's Allianz League Division One opener against Derry at Celtic Park.

Harte has rotated his side to such an extent this month that few if any players can regard themselves as being automatic choices.

For one player, tomorrow's prompt renewal of rivalry with Brian McIver's side – Tyrone beat them a fortnight ago – offers a big opportunity to emphasise his worth at full-forward.

Up until recently, Mattie Donnelly had been cutting a dash at right-half-forward, modelling himself on Dublin's Paul Flynn, an acknowledged master in this role.

Now, the young Trillick forward finds himself playing much closer to the opposition posts and it has been a case of so far, so good.

But the articulate Donnelly, who has played at centre-half-back and midfield for his club, is aware that Derry will be on a revenge mission. And this means that he may not be afforded the latitude which he enjoyed in the 5-16 to 0-7 drubbing of Armagh.

"I am enjoying playing full-forward. If you get the right ball it's a nice place to be," he states.

"I am alongside the likes of Conor McAliskey and Darren McCurry who are very clever footballers. It's good when a pass comes off and you link together to get a score."

He continues: "There's definitely a part of you saying that you would have loved to have stamped your authority at number 10 this year, to bring it to another level and go to the top bracket.

"There's a part of you wanting to meet that challenge but full-forward is a completely different challenge as well.

"You just have to take that on too and try to do what you did in the number 10 jersey last year.

"If you are playing inside, again we go back to the Dublin team and Bernard Brogan. He has a lot of physical power, his movement is good while his finishing and his ball-winning ability are excellent.

"If you ticked all the boxes he ticks, you would be going in the right direction," smiles Donnelly.

Like the rest of the squad he has been immersed in conditioning and stamina work.

"Everything is logged and recorded within the set-up now. If you want to be cutting it you have to be showing increased signs of improvement every so often," points out Donnelly.

"While strength work is important, number one is the ball skills and ball control."

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