Trillick must be at top of our game, says Donnelly
Tyrone skipper Mattie Donnelly has endured his share of highs and lows this year but Sunday will present a special challenge for the all-action Trillick dynamo.
The Red Hands' collapse against Donegal in the Ulster Championship was followed by a frustrating defeat to Kerry in the All-Ireland semi-final, which left Donnelly and his colleagues to ponder what might have been.
But it's on the club front that Donnelly could be in line for a second substantial bonus. The Trillick side he has served so well for some time now is set to come up against familiar faces when they confront Derrygonnelly Harps in an alluring Ulster Club Football Championship quarter-final tie at Brewster Park, Enniskillen (2.30pm) that has even created a wave of enthusiasm among neutrals.
Donnelly, who has been at the heart of Trillick's progress this year, is all too aware of the challenge that a Derrygonnelly side, which only recently collected a stunning fifth Fermanagh Senior Championship title on the trot, will pose.
The Erne County representatives may have yet to stamp any sort of significant imprint on the Ulster Club Championship, but Donnelly, like many other people, believes that their recent preliminary round win over Cargin will have given the team a further injection of confidence.
"They won't fear us because they know us so well. For our part, we know we have to bring our A game to the table this time out. Nothing less will do because Derrygonnelly will be very keen to reach the semi-finals," pointed out Donnelly.
Along with his brother Richie, he helps to form a cutting edge within the Trillick line-up that will need to be at its sharpest on Sunday.
Trillick last won the Tyrone title in 2015 but have been unable to achieve success in the Ulster Club Championship.
That's something the combative Donnelly would like to see rectified this year, and he believes that Trillick's current efficient defensive alignment could prove a major factor in helping them to get over the Harps.
In their Tyrone final win, Rory Brennan, who caught the eye in Tyrone's colours on more than one occasion during the summer, marshalled the rearguard to such an extent that the normally prolific Errigal Ciaran encountered difficulty in scoring from play.
That's something that manager Nigel Seaney in particular is keen to see repeated on Sunday.
"Rory is a super player, really top class," enthused Seaney. "He's technically very, very good, very mobile, but he also has the game intelligence to recognise where danger is coming from, and the ability to stifle that danger.
"I thought he had one of his finest games for us in the Tyrone final against Errigal Ciaran."
Seaney, who was also in charge when Trillick were crowned county champions four years ago, is happy to see his side now join the hunt for Ulster honours.
"I think the big thing is that we have to kick on. The squad is very hungry for more success but we recognise that we face a huge test against Derrygonnelly," pointed out Seaney.
Daire Gallagher, James Garrity, Ruairi Kelly and Ryan Gray are other key cogs in the Trillick machine, while Lee Brennan, Rory's brother, can bring his accuracy from frees and play to the fore yet again.
He has made a huge contribution to the team's progress but is aware that the well-drilled Derrygonnelly defence will be on their toes for what manager Brendan Rasdale sees as their toughest test of 2019 to date.
Harps boss Rasdale said: "That's my view, and it's an indication of the level of respect we have for Trillick. They are a good side and will relish the challenge of meeting us in what is something of a local derby, but that's what you want in Championship football, games like this that whip up interest and let teams see where they really are."
Rasdale has worked with players from both teams as St Michael's College, Enniskillen coach.
Meanwhile, Naomh Conaill, the new Donegal champions, are gearing up for what will be their fourth Championship game in a fortnight.
It took three meetings before they managed to get the better of Gaoth Dobhair in the Donegal final second replay on Wednesday night and now they must confront Cavan champions Castlerahan in an Ulster Club quarter-final on Sunday.
Naomh Conaill, who have Donegal county players Ciaran Thompson, Cian Mulligan, Leo McLoone and Anthony Thompson on board, were stretched to the limit by Gaoth Dobhair and it remains to be seen if they will have recovered sufficiently.