GAA Football

Mattie Donnelly: Tyrone settling into system designed to take them back to the top

Tyrone star Mattie Donnelly
Francis Mooney

Tyrone are beginning to feel comfortable with a system of play designed to take them back to the top, according to skipper Mattie Donnelly

Subtle tweaks to a tried and trusted strategy have seen the Red Hands add an edge to their attacking play, and it all came together at McHale Park.

A 12-point win over Mayo secured Division One status for 2019 with a game to spare, and the pressure has been lifted from a team that looked set for a battle to avoid relegation following a shaky start to the NFL.

“There's been a few tweaks, and more so than many other teams, we had a lot of switching in personnel, switching on roles around the start of the league, with Sigerson and club football,” said Donnelly.

“We had big players missing because of that, missing from training, and maybe not coming to coming to games as fresh as they could at the weekend.

“But we have got in to a good settled team now, a settled squad, and we have unbelievable quality in depth.

“Between players settling into roles, the team settling in, and just working it and talking it out on the training ground, we're making good progress, but we have a lot more progress to make.”

Next weekend's clash with Kerry is a dead rubber, but Donnelly wants to extend a winning run to three games with another confident display.

“You don't to be ending the league with a loss, you want to be ending it with a victory, and especially on your home patch, when the crowd is out to see the league finish.

“And it's a good young Kerry team, they were very impressive last week, and that will be another tough game, a brilliant game, to see where we're at before championship.”

And the Trillick man is keen to make Healy Park a fortress once again with a second successive success at the Omagh venue, particularly as it's set to stage the big Ulster Championship opener against Monaghan on May 20.

“We need to make Omagh a tough place to come to. We do want to be leaving that pitch next Sunday in a positive frame of mind, because the next time we'll be back there will be a big (championship) tussle with Monaghan,” he said.

The Tyrone captain weighed in with four classy points from play as the Ulster champions routed Mayo by 2-14 to 0-8, but he heaped praise on his team-mates, who performed with purpose and intensity throughout.

“Very proud and very relieved. We have secured our Division One status for next year, and that was our goal.

“From the start, we just had to dig in and make sure we we're playing Division One football next year, and we have done that, by overcoming two top teams in Donegal and Mayo.

“It was probably unfortunate for Mayo that we were at our highest pitch, the highest that we have been at in the league so far this year.

“We definitely played well, we did a lot of things well, and obviously that makes it hard for any team we're playing.”

Tyrone laid a solid platform with the advantage of a stiff breeze in the first half, racing into a seven points lead, and Mayo were forced to chase the game, their predicament exacerbated by the loss of four key players, Cillian O'Connor and Lee Keegan to injury, along with the dismissals of Colm Boyle (two yellow) and Andy Moran (black).

“We were happy, but the toss of a coin at the start of the game can have a bit impact too, it could as easily have been them going in with an 8-3 lead. That's massive, especially with their home crowd, if they were to get on top.

“It comes down to wee things like that, a wee bit of luck, where we got the toss, we went with the wind and had a good lead, so we were in a good position at half-time.”

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