Mattie Donnelly certain Trillick colleague Lee Brennan will become a Tyrone star
MATTIE DONNELLY only has one question about Lee Brennan - 'When?’
The youngster is yet to establish himself with Tyrone but Donnelly insists: “It’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just ‘when?’” The Tyrone star, who has won consecutive Allstars, is convinced that his Trillick club-mate will prove to be a success with the Red Hands too.
Both players are in the squad as Tyrone aim to win a sixth consecutive McKenna Cup, beginning in Cavan this Sunday. The only problem Donnelly foresees for the three-time Ulster Colleges Allstar is that his involvement with the county U21 may again hinder his chances in the senior set-up.
Still, Donnelly is certain that forward Brennan is “just destined to do big things”. Tyrone senior football boss Mickey Harte seems to agree, having had him in his senior squad and teams, as Donnelly notes: “He’s been in there two years now. The big thing that’s held Lee back is his involvement with the U21s. He’s been left to develop there and that’s been happening at a critical stage of Tyrone’s season, during the National League."
“It’s hard to come back and force your way in between the league and Championship. That may have gone against him and obviously it’s going to be an issue again for him with the U21s too.”
However, Donnelly would include Brennan if he were the manager, declaring: “I would carry wee Lee every day of the week in any team I go to because I’ve seen first hand his free-taking and his temperament for free-taking.
“Not only that, not discarding his free kicks, he has that wee bit of magic up his sleeve. He can mix it up, he can come out and play-make, but he’s a lethal finisher too from play.
“He’s a threat from play, he’s adding to that side of his game. He has all the attributes to be a very, very good asset for us – but at the same time he has serious competition there.
“I don’t know when, but he will definitely come to prominence over the next year or two… He has that temperament, that class about him, he’s just destined to do big things. Hopefully for himself and Tyrone, that can be sooner rather than later - but it’s not a question of ‘if’, it’s just ‘when?’.”
Donnelly and Brennan aren’t the only serious talents in Trillick - their respective brothers, Richie and Rory, have been in the Tyrone senior squad too.
Mattie puts much of that player development down to the camaraderie in his club, commenting: “The more you look into club success around the country, obviously you have the coaching and the community, but it’s about players coming together with a great bond.
“Football is really an avenue for spending time with each other. We’ve a great group who just like spending time with each other. Our way of ‘hanging out’ is going to the pitch and kicking about or going to the gym. Sub-consciously you’re getting better as a team and a player.”
He admits that competition extends off the pitch, with everyone driving each other on: “That group is tight and then younger fellas want to spend time with each other and with the older group, want to do what they’re doing, and suddenly everything expands. You’ve a panel of players in working at their game.
“You feed off each other - you get a 16-year-old trying to show me up in the gym and stuff like that. You’re kinda letting your pride take over to hold in there - that’s bad, saying that at my age!
“Obviously there’s a great tradition in Trillick and we want to emulate it - but at the same time we’re enjoying it too, enjoying each other’s company.”
A public advocate for the nascent Club Players’ Association, Donnelly walks the walk as well as talking the talk - quite literally. Before heading out on the Football Allstars tour to Dubai at the end of November, he was putting in the miles for Trillick, as he recalled: “The work we put in at underage too - there’s a big development draw going on, we’ve been out selling tickets. I was out one day selling tickets in Scotstown and the work it takes is unbelievable, it makes you appreciate the work that goes on in the club.
“There’s nothing but positive energy going around Trillick at the minute and that’s reflected in all areas - the volunteer aspect, the playing aspect, it’s all good.
"We’re looking forward to the future, definitely.”