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Donnelly aware there is no longer a margin for error

By Declan Bogue

It seems you can't talk to an inter-county footballer these days without uncovering their ever-diminishing workload over the summer months as they bid to keep themselves as fresh as possible for their sporting endeavours.

Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly may be committed to joining worldwide famous company PricewaterhouseCoopers in October, having secured employment as an accountant, but for now he is going to kick back and relax by doing some coaching in the GAA summer camps for the next few months.

So relaxed, in fact, that he only found out Tyrone were in the hat for yesterday morning's qualifiers draw - they have a date with Limerick in Healy Park on June 27 - when somebody pointed it out to him on Sunday night.

"My gut reaction was that it was at home," he told the Belfast Telegraph.

"I told myself anyway that it wasn't going to bother me who we got, because we are lucky to have the qualifiers.

"We never thought about the qualifiers until we were beaten in the first round of Ulster. You can't give it any thought, but now that we are there we are grateful to have it."

He also sounds a note of caution. "The other thing is that Healy Park hasn't exactly been a fortress for us in the past few years," he said in reference to Tyrone's surprisingly tame exit to Armagh in last year's backdoor.

Donnelly's lack of immersion in matters Tyrone can be attributed to how he has his mind on club affairs with Trillick since the Ulster Championship exit to Donegal.

Over the weekend, they got their senior Championship campaign under way with a thumping 3-15 to 1-9 win over senior new boys Dungannon.

The game was illuminated by under-21 star Lee Brennan (below) who scored a personal tally of 1-10 and set up the other two goals, leading to speculation that he may be called into the senior squad.

However, Donnelly played down that idea. He said: "He is sitting A-Levels as well at the minute. His performance the other night would have caught the eye, but his age might be taken into consideration as well."

Tyrone players have been meeting weekly at Garvaghey for strength and conditioning sessions, but otherwise, clubs have had their services almost exclusively, leading to a regularity of games that is sure to stand the Red Hands in good stead as they target a run in the qualifiers.

"We have been in action for the last three weekends," said Donnelly. "Then you have a nice two-week break before the qualifier. You can taper it down then and get the blade sharpened for it.

"Football games week-in, week-out leave you nice and refreshed. At this time of the year especially it gives you something to look forward to. I find it beneficial."

In 2013, Tyrone reached a league final before being beaten in the Ulster Championship by Donegal. However, they outlasted their Ulster rivals that summer, going as far as the All-Ireland semi-final.

One fact stands alone as an indisputable truth; there is no safety net from now on.

"You put in so many hours that there is so much on the line," said Donnelly.

"Every team in the backdoor is going to be throwing the kitchen sink at it, it's knockout football now. You only get one chance.

"Any team on any day now goes into the games with that mindset. They have to throw the whole shebang at it and it is going to be dangerous.

"We will have to go out with that mindset too and when two teams go out with that frame of mind, it makes it a real Championship battle."

And over three weeks on from the Ballybofey defeat, he believes Tyrone have emerged with credit.

"When the draw was made, you couldn't have received a tougher one," he commented.

"Donegal are the dominant force in Ulster at the minute, and they have been for the past few years.

"It was always going to be difficult and you probably needed the breaks going in your favour on the day."

He continued: "We were gutted, to be honest. It took a lot out of us for a few days. Lady Luck probably didn't favour us either when you see the goal chances that we missed.

"They had a goal opportunity that they managed to take and it was fortunate, we had similar chances that didn't come off for us.

"I don't think, confidence-wise, that we have been harmed by it.

"When you play with the work-rate and the desire we played with, sometimes you have to go off with your head held high.

"You are very much looking forward to getting back on the pitch and getting a Tyrone jersey back on after it."

Belfast Telegraph


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