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Coach Peter Donnelly hails the rising stars of Tyrone

By John Campbell

If by chance Tyrone are seeking an extra incentive to succeed in overcoming Roscommon when the sides meet in the All-Ireland U21 football semi-final tomorrow, then they need look no further than their own strength and conditioning coach, Peter Donnelly.

The Coalisland man has now shared in no fewer than eight Ulster titles at this level, three as a player with the Red Hands (2001-2003), four as Cavan fitness guru (2011-2014) and Tyrone's most recent accolade earlier this month.

When he returned to his native county as part of Mickey Harte's senior management team at the start of this year having won All- Ireland medals as player in 2005 and 2008, hopes were high that Donnelly might bring his midas touch into play.

And that's precisely what has happened in the U21 sphere where, along with manager Fergal Logan and his assistants Peter Canavan and Brian Dooher, Donnelly has played a big part in ending a nine-year provincial title famine.

But the man regarded as a key component in the team's progress to date is eager to apportion credit to where he feels it most belongs.

"It's the players who have been doing the business with Fergal, Peter and Brian playing a huge role in getting them where they are today. For this side to get into the All-Ireland final would be a massive boost," says the modest and unassuming Donnelly.

In lifting the Ulster crown, Tyrone showed steel, skill and character, underpinned by full-back and skipper Padraig Hampsey - qualities that boss Logan believes will be required in abundance tomorrow at Markievicz Park, Sligo.

"We will give it a good lash. The beauty of the thing is that we have leaders and players that are prepared to fight. All we can do is give it our best shot," says Logan.

In beating Fermanagh, Armagh and Donegal to win their Ulster title, Tyrone showed tigerish resolve, never more so than in the decider against Donegal when a last-gasp point from a free by Daniel McNulty gave them victory.

Their impressive track record has certainly not gone unnoticed in Roscommon where team manager Mark Dowd admits that his players will need to step up on their Connacht final display against Galway if they are to win.

"It was a long time since we had beaten Galway but Tyrone will be another step up for us. While I really think that the game against Galway will stand to us, we still made plenty of errors. We won't get away with that tomorrow," insists Dowd.

Tyrone, though, have shown their ability to cope with pressure and then transform defence into attack. The team's work-rate and particularly their support play is of a high order with manager Logan suggesting that their belief could help underpin their performance tomorrow.

"While we are happy to have one trophy in the bag, we now have our eyes on an even bigger prize. I honestly think that our self-belief allied to our ability and commitment will stand us in good stead against Roscommon," adds Logan.

In the other semi-final, surprise packet Tipperary take on Dublin.

Belfast Telegraph


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