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Mattie Donnelly says Tyrone's hunger and bottle is not in doubt

Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly says Sunday's win over Kildare showed that the side's character can't be called into question Picture by Seamus Loughran
By Francis Mooney

TYRONE'S match-winning skipper never doubted the character of his players on a day of almost unbearable pressure in Kildare.

On a critical afternoon at Newbridge, they held their nerve to claim their first League points of the season with Mattie Donnelly kicking a wonder point deep into stoppage time to settle a tight, tense contest.

The Red Hand captain took aim from close to the sideline, out on the left, and a sweetly struck kick sailed between the uprights to lift his side off the bottom of NFL Division One table.

“There's one thing you'll not go far without, that's a bit of guts, a bit of honesty, and I'm happy enough that that's always present in this team, and it was very present throughout the day,” said Donnelly.

“I know at times the execution and passes and that might not have been what we would like, but we can work on that.

“That hunger and being up for the battle, that's one thing I would never question these boys on.”

Having broken their duck following defeats to Galway and Dublin, Donnelly is in no doubt about the importance of building on a narrow win over Kildare in their next League outing against neighbours Monaghan on Saturday week.

“Monaghan's not soft, especially when they get you on their own turf in Monaghan. Down in Castleblayney, that's going to be a feisty encounter, it always is.

“But this will stand us well for going in there. They [Monaghan] came down to Kildare last week and came out with a one point win as well, so it will be another hammer and tongs game.”

Tyrone face three Ulster derby ties over the next three weeks, two of them against Donegal, starting with next weekend's rescheduled Dr McKenna Cup final at Celtic Park.

“We're kind of going into a mini Ulster Championship now, the next three weeks we have Donegal, Monaghan and Donegal again. They're going to be bruising encounters,” said Donnelly.

“Coming down to Newbridge for a game like it was, a hostile environment, a big physical Kildare side, will stand us in

good stead.

“We'll learn a lot from our composure in the last five or ten minutes. There were a lot of things we did that we wouldn't be happy with, so learning from that and taking it into the next game, that's really going to really be the theme this year, learning with every game and taking it into the next one.

“Both teams were desperate to get two points on the board, two teams around a similar age profile and trying to progress.

“I know you can talk about good performances and that, but you really do need to be picking up the points at this stage, and that was very evident.

“There was a bit of desperation crept in for both teams, making unusual errors. Thank God we came out on the right side of it.”

Sunday's basement battle at St Conleth's Park bristled with tension as two sides without a point fought desperately to escape the relegation zone.

It was a gripping encounter, level on seven occasions, but the pressure facing both sets of players was always evident.

“Both teams were making errors that they wouldn't normally

make the whole way through the game.

“It's just that when you do get that chance, you really need to nail it and I just felt that whatever team took their chance, that was going to be the difference and thankfully we were the team that managed it.”

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