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Tyrone ace Mattie Donnelly determined to start 2017 on high note

By John Campbell

If 2016 proved rather hectic for Tyrone ace Mattie Donnelly, then he has no hesitation in hoping that 2017 will be "maybe twice as hectic".

The Trillick clubman could hardly have asked for a more frenetic start to the new season.

Within a 24-hour period spanning Sunday and Monday next, Donnelly hopes to participate in Tyrone's opening game in the Bank of Ireland Dr McKenna Cup against Cavan and hail the formal launch of the new Club Players' Association.

It's perhaps just as well that the word 'burnout' does not figure in Donnelly's personal sporting dictionary as in 2016 he represented Trillick, Tyrone, the All Stars and Ulster.

He may have just about managed to catch his breath over the Christmas period but already he is primed for what he hopes will be an action-packed season.

"When I express the hope that 2017 will be maybe twice as hectic as the year just ended, I mean of course that Tyrone will hopefully get into the All-Ireland final," explained Donnelly. "I would just love that to happen. We did not play up to scratch and were beaten by a single point by Mayo at the quarter-final stage in 2016 which was frustrating but hope springs eternal again."

On Sunday, Donnelly will encounter a familiar figure in new Cavan boss Mattie McGleenan who gave splendid service to Tyrone as a player but is now firmly committed to further bolstering the Breffni County's image.

"We would like to hit the ground running after the manner in which we surrendered the O'Fiaich Cup but we are in a tough group in the McKenna Cup beginning with this match against Cavan. They are up in Division One along with us and obviously we will be seeing them again but for the minute the whole focus is on Sunday's game," stated Donnelly.

He is one of several experienced players who are expected to be on duty at Kingspan Breffni Park as Mickey Harte seeks to strengthen his side following their defeat to Armagh in the O'Fiaich Cup final.

Harte pointed out: "Armagh were more competitive and robust on the day and deserved their win but we expect to have a better balance in our side for the McKenna Cup. You can't expect new players to flourish if they don't have experienced heads around them. As I see it, this is very important and hopefully we will get the blend right."

And while Donnelly will undoubtedly provide the impetus for a hoped-for victory from midfield if selected, he will subsequently turn his attention to Monday's launch of the much-heralded Club Players' Association.

Declan Brennan, a two-time Monaghan Senior Football Championship winner as a player and four-time winner as manager of Clontibret, is the man driving the CPA in these early stages and Donnelly feels he is "the best man to have in that situation".

"I'd have a good relationship with Declan and he's very passionate about it. There are no empty words with Declan," maintained Donnelly. "He speaks his mind and he can give good leadership. He's the best man to have in that situation and I think this is an important occasion for club players."

Brennan says he has received thousands of messages from people offering support for the venture, with the sole aim to find a solution to the ongoing fixtures problem.

And Donnelly says it is imperative that everybody involved in Gaelic football pulls in the one direction.

He added: "A county player is a club player as well. I think sometimes club players make even more sacrifices than county players if truth be told.

"With county football, there's probably more rewards that come from it. You're a lot better looked after, there's no doubt about it."

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