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Donnelly praises character and courage of Tyrone minors

By John Campbell

The pain of defeat was clearly etched on the face of Tyrone minor team manager Mickey Donnelly when he entered the Croke Park media centre in the immediate aftermath of yesterday's All-Ireland final against Mayo.

It was a match Tyrone could have won but Donnelly did not come armed with excuses.

Instead, he heaped praise on his players, alluding to the character and courage they had shown in reaching the decider following their Ulster final reversal against Monaghan.

"I think that in this match again the players showed immense character," declared Donnelly.

"The goal that Mayo got just before half-time came a little bit against the run of play and then we found ourselves seven points behind in the second-half but on each occasion the team responded superbly."

The Red Hands manager pinpointed what he felt were key failings in his team's first-half performance in particular. "We were being put under pressure to shoot from the wrong areas of the pitch," he said.

"It is not easy to find the target from under the Hogan Stand and when we kicked the ball short or kicked it wide then we tended to play into Mayo's hands."

"You would have to say that we fell short on this occasion. We knew going into this game that Mayo were a good team so obviously their performance did not surprise. I suppose it could be said that the clock beat us in the end because we just ran out of time."

"We also tended to concede a few unnecessary frees and this did not help. With a little bit more experience this could have been avoided. But, fair play to Mayo, they were the better team on the day and deserved their win."

The fact that Tyrone mounted a recovery mission when the odds appeared to be against them did not surprise him.

"We knew that they were going to battle because these boys have been a great credit to their families and clubs all year. We could not have asked more of them and we are very proud of them," he added.

But while an All-Ireland final may have slipped from his grasp, Donnelly is already focusing on the future.

"We have a number of players who will be available to us again next year and that is very encouraging. When you consider that a player like David Mulgrew is only 15 years of age it offers great encouragement from Tyrone's perspective and we want to go and build in the progress that was made this season," added Donnelly.

And he has certainly been served with a generous measure of encouragement in this respect by Mayo manager Enda Gilvarry.

"They are a well-drilled, well-coached side who gave an excellent performance," declared Gilvarry.

"I think that they can feel very proud of their efforts. For our part, I think our senior side has served as good role models for this minor team."

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