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Underdogs tag is acting as inspiration for Tyrone GAA chiefs

By John Campbell

Wounded pride can often prove a powerful spur in the pursuit of success.

And that's one of the reasons why Tyrone GAA chiefs believe their team can rise to the occasion when they face Donegal in the Ulster Championship opener at MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey on Sunday (4.00pm).

Relegation to Division Two of the Allianz League, strong allegations that cynical tactics were employed in the recent All-Ireland U21 final, the manner in which team boss Feargal Logan was snubbed by Tipperary mentors in the immediate aftermath of that game and the fact that Donegal have won the last three championship meetings between the sides will combine to send the Red Hands into action nursing a raging thirst for victory.

From county board chairperson Roisin Jordan down, deep-seated feelings of anger, disappointment and frustration are still palpable.

"We are disappointed with the level and tone of criticism we have shipped recently but as far as we are concerned we are adopting a positive attitude to Sunday's game and to the championship season," says Jordan.

"A lot has been said lately, much of which has been hurtful, but we prefer that our team do the talking for us all on the field. We know that the odds are seen to be stacked against us but Tyrone have shown themselves to be resilient in the past and they will do so again."

County board PRO Eunan Lindsay makes his own tongue-in-cheek observation in relation to Sunday's shoot-out.

"It's a long time since Tyrone were such red-hot underdogs for an Ulster Championship tie," smiles the Glenelly clubman. "But we relish this role, strange as it may seem."

Gavin Devlin, now effectively No 2 to manager Mickey Harte, offers a robust defence of the Red Hands' credentials despite their demotion in the league.

"In the last few games we have played against them, Donegal have had the edge on us but I believe that we still have good players in this Tyrone team," affirms the Ardboe clubman.

"Our captain Sean Cavanagh has had a niggly injury but is going well in training and you have boys like Mattie Donnelly, Peter Harte, Justin McMahon, Aidan McRory, Darren McCurry and Colm Cavanagh who have been round a few corners.

"Donegal will be going into the game as Ulster champions and will be expected to win but we will be ready for them."

Devlin's defiance typifies the level of resolve within Tyrone where there is a clear feeling that the county's GAA status has been vilified lately. Yet although they may not quite be flavour of the month in all quarters, they nonetheless pride themselves on doing things in style.

Tomorrow night, a lavish function will take place at the county's Centre of Excellence at Garvaghey hosted by Club Tyrone where Eglish man Conal Martin will chair a pre-match discussion forum which will include former Donegal player Kevin Cassidy, who was controversially axed by ex-manager Jim McGuinness, and Tyrone's triple All-Ireland winner Conor Gormley.

The occasion, at which the All-Ireland U21 trophy will have pride of place, will also see the Tyrone Academy under-age coaching programme unveiled and the highlight will be when Harte announces his team.

While Harte is keeping his powder dry in advance of the game, he is aware that a win over Donegal would be a massive shot in the arm for his county.

And he can rest assured of one thing. Should Tyrone come out on top, the word 'relegation' is hardly likely to be uttered too often for the rest of the summer.

Belfast Telegraph


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