GAA Football

Richie Donnelly making a good case to be Tyrone's number 14

Richie Donnelly has impressed in Tyrone's Qualifier wins over Meath and Carlow
By Francis Mooney

RICHIE Donnelly has made a compelling case for his claim on Tyrone’s number 14 shirt.

An opportunity presented to the Trillick man as a result of injuries suffered by Lee Brennan and Mark Bradley was seized in ruthless fashion as he turned in highly effective displays against Meath and Carlow.

Now he’s set to start a third successive championship game when the Red Hands take on Cavan in Saturday’s derby tie at Kingspan Breffni Park.

“It’s not an easy team to stay on, so any chance you do get in a starting jersey, you need to take the opportunity,” he said.

“Whether you’re starting or coming on, and we saw the benefit of the boys coming on and really pushing us home.

“It’s very important on a personal level, because you don’t get these jerseys handed to you.

“You have to work very hard for them, so whenever you do get it, you have to do your best to make sure you keep it, get the performance and keep that jersey, and hopefully it will continue.”

A hectic schedule lies ahead for Tyrone if they are to make it through the Qualifiers and into the Super 8s, with games each weekend, but Donnelly is confident they are ready to meet he demands placed upon them.

“We have a lot of work in the bank from last November, with this in mind, with what we feel we need going towards the Super 8s, and in this run of games, we knew what was coming down the line.

“So we have prepared for it, and it’s just about freshening up now between games and making sure we’re game-ready come next weekend again.”

But he’s not prepared to make any bold predictions about how far the Red Hands can progress along the road to All-Ireland final day.

“I know it’s a cliché, but we’re genuinely just taking it week by week now, because if we don’t, that’s when you get caught, so we’ll prepare all week for next weekend and take it as it comes.”

Donnelly, younger brother of team captain Mattie, showed that he has a footballing brain to match his ball skills as he contributed cleverly to an extra-time win over Meath, and at Netwatch Cullen park last Saturday, he displayed another side to his game with a 1-2 haul.

“That’s what it’s all about doing what you’re meant to do for the team first and foremost, and whatever comes on top of that then you take it, and just make the right decisions for the team.

“Thankfully it went well and when the scores came I took them, so I’m happy with that.”

Tyrone cut loose in the second half of their first ever meeting with Carlow, hitting three goals to end the Barrowsiders’ fairy-tale season.

Carlow held possession in the early stages in an attempt to frustrate the Red Hands in the baking heat of a scorching afternoon by the River Barrow, but there was a certain inevitability about the manner in which the Red Hands would eventually take control and stamp their class and authority on the contest.

“We certainly expected a tough challenge, and we knew the template that they’d bring,” said Donnelly.

“It’s worked for them in most games so far, so we had a fair idea that they weren’t going to stray too far from what’s been working for them.

“We were preparing for them holding the ball for extended periods, so we just had to be patient and pick the right moments on when to tackle and try and get those turnovers, and it seemed to work as the game went on.”

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