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Donnelly's injury a major blow as Harte is forced to rethink his plans


Matthew Donnelly

Matthew Donnelly

�INPHO/Bryan Keane

Matthew Donnelly

To those watching from the outside, it would seem that all is in a state of flux in Tyrone right now. The latest news will come as a huge worry.

Over the close season, their Garvaghey training complex could well have done with revolving doors. From last year's backroom staff, Peter Donnelly departed a full-time role as what is now becoming known as head of athletic development.

He took another job with Ulster Rugby, but it is understood he was keen to remain in a part-time capacity with his county. Somehow, it didn't work out like that.

Thoughts that his new role would forbid such a commitment were then skewered when he linked up with Monaghan in their new-look management team headed up by Seamus McEnaney.

Soon after, 2005 Player of the Year Stephen O'Neill also left.

He had been brought in with a specific brief of helping the forwards.

While it is hard to apportion credit for any player's development without seeing these things for yourself, the fact that Cathal McShane was converted from a wing-forward to the joint-top scorer in this year's All-Ireland series along with Sean O'Shea - winning his first All-Star in the process - surely owed something to O'Neill's input.

Manager Mickey Harte has moved swiftly to plug these gaps with former Antrim player Kevin Madden recruited as coach and former Ulster Rugby strength and conditioning chief Jonny Davis coming in ahead of pre-season training.

But the latest news will be the biggest blow. With Matthew Donnelly now out for six months having severed a tendon that holds his hamstring to the bone, they are not just losing a captain but someone who has earned the right for the team to be built around him.

Against Cork in the Super 8s game, he was sent in to keep McShane company closer to goal for the second half. He affected the contest like few others are able to with his strength, ball-winning and composure.

When he plays around the middle, he breaks defensive lines and gets in behind the cover.

Without him, Harte will have to ponder a significant rejig of his team. This will be presented as an opportunity for others, but some players are irreplaceable.

Belfast Telegraph