Mattie Donnelly could be back earlier than expected - Mickey Harte

Mattie Donnelly picked up his injury while on duty for Trillick in the Ulster Club Championship 
Francis Mooney

TYRONE manager Mickey Harte believes injured captain Mattie Donnelly could be back in action a couple of months earlier than expected.

Donnelly is facing an estimated six-month absence due to a serious hamstring injury which required surgery, and could rule him out of the entire National Football League. But Harte has issued a more optimistic update, suggesting that the former Allstar could return within four months of suffering the injury, which he picked up in the first-half of Trillick’s Ulster Club SFC quarter-final against Derrygonnelly earlier this month. That would give him an opportunity to feature in the latter stages of the NFL Division One campaign, and provide vital game time ahead of the Ulster Championship opener against Donegal.

“With the help of God we can reduce that a bit, but at the moment he’s not where we would like him to be,” said Harte.

“I hope it’s not six months, but I suppose people have to err on the side of caution. He’s getting the best possible treatment and he’s getting the best possible recovery assistance that we could possibly get for him. So we’ll keep our fingers crossed that it isn’t just quite as bad as that, but certainly we’ll miss him until he is back.”

The League campaign, which is provisionally set to start for Tyrone with a home game against newly promoted Meath, is vital in moulding and developing a team capable of going on another extended championship run: “It’s very important, and without Mattie there, that’s a huge blow to the whole strength of the team, both physically and mentally on the team,” said Harte.

“He has been a leader for us. But sometimes these things happen, and you have to learn to deal with them. We’re playing in the top division, so there’s no room for feeling sorry for yourself, you’ve got to get on and face the battle.”

Midfielder Declan McClure is another casualty of the club scene, and a knee injury has kept him out of action in recent weeks.

“Declan got injured in a club game in the championship,” said Harte.

“I’m not sure how serious it is , but has been serious enough to keep him out of action until this point in time. But I’d be hopeful that he’s be able to deal with that and be back in action again in not too long.”

Meanwhile, the Tyrone boss criticised the manner in which the decision to introduce a Tier Two championship was made at Special Congress. He believes teams which will not feature in the second tier should not have had a say in deciding the fate of those who may be involved.

“I don’t think people who are in Tier One at the minute should have had a say in that,” he said.

“It really should have been down to the people who are currently or likely to be in that position to make the decision. Who should anybody else have a say in somebody else’s outcome? I don’t think it was fair that it should have been an open vote like that. It should have applied to those people who might have to deal with it.”

And he feels the new system has been imposed on the majority of the players against their wishes: “From what I can see, most of the players involved at that level don’t want it.

“And it won’t help their clubs either, because they will be brought over to other parts of the world to play their football in the summer, so it will not achieve what it is supposed to achieve.”

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