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Donnelly is embracing the pressure of title quest

 

Crowd appeal: Tyrone captain Mattie Donnelly sees fans' backing as vital
Crowd appeal: Tyrone captain Mattie Donnelly sees fans' backing as vital
John Campbell

By John Campbell

Tyrone skipper Mattie Donnelly got an early taste of the Ulster Championship fervour that is beginning to sweep the O'Neill county when he lined out with his club Trillick against Dromore in an All-County league game on Sunday.

A six o'clock throw-in time could never be regarded as the most suitable tip-off point for a variety of reasons yet the numbers that flocked to Gardrum Park would have more than matched the crowds which attended many of the games in the recently-completed Allianz League.

With the provincial championship preliminary round tie against old rivals Derry just a month away, Donnelly experienced at first hand the fanaticism for football that still prevails within the county and admits that he liked what he saw.

"There is no doubt that it was a powerful crowd for a club league game but it just goes to show how much Tyrone people love their football," muses Donnelly. "Obviously club championship matches attract above-average crowds but I think that the crowd at our game on Sunday proves that the build-up to the game against Derry is up and running.

"Club football in Tyrone is always very intense but I think that this provides a good lead into the Ulster Championship. Derry have won promotion into Division Three and we know that they will be fired up for this game."

Along with his brother Richie and the Brennan duo Lee and Rory, Donnelly spearheaded a Trillick side that had hoped to lower the colours of a fired up Dromore team that was missing some players.

They managed to come out on top though, on a 0-10 to 0-9 scoreline.

But as Donnelly's focus switches to the game against Derry in Omagh on May 12, hopes are high that Mickey Harte's side can build on their impressive start to the Allianz League.

Wins over Dublin and Galway saw the Red Hands compile an overall total of 4-29 with Donnelly at the hub of an attacking unit in which Peter Harte and Cathal McShane were also key figures.

Often accused of adhering to a defensive policy in the past, Tyrone brought a fresh dimension to their play during the league which has not only found favour with their followers but triggered the belief that the side can now make a bold bid to end what is an 11-year All-Ireland title famine.

But Donnelly sounds a note of caution as D-Day looms.

"We are looking no further than the game against Derry, that's the only fixture on our horizon," he points out.

Meanwhile, the Killyclogher club plan to move quickly to replace Paul McIver who has rather surprisingly stood down as manager after only a very short time in charge.

It is understood that McIver was discomfited when he discovered that several players planned to spend the summer in the US and would not be available to him.

The vastly experienced former Tyrone All-Ireland winner Dermot Carlin has taken over the reins but insists that this will be on a temporary basis only as he is still playing.

It seems likely that the Killyclogher club will now seek an experienced team boss who will undoubtedly have a difficult task on his hands given that the side is currently under-strength but this situation could well improve when players who are currently injured and those unavailable for other reasons return.

Killyclogher had previously been under the baton of former Fermanagh and Sligo boss Dominic Corrigan who guided St Michael's College, Enniskillen to Hogan Cup glory at Croke Park on Saturday last .

Corrigan managed Killyclogher in the 2016 and 2017 seasons, delivering the Tyrone Senior Championship title in 2016.

It was their first taste of county championship title success in 13 years.

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