GAA Football

Tyrone have to produce at fortress Ballybofey in last round showdown with Donegal says Mattie Donnelly

Mattie Donnelly says Tyrone's battle with Donegal will have a "last day of the Premiership" buzz about it Pic Seamus Loughran.
Andy Watters

MATTIE Donnelly describes Ballybofey as “a fortress” and the stats support his definition.

Donegal haven’t lost at the MacCumhail Park ground in 21 games since Down got over the line in extra-time back in 2010. Eight years on, Tyrone have to storm the fortress and get a result (at least a draw) on August 5.

“It's well-documented how much pride they (Donegal) place on Ballybofey and it is a fortress in all senses of the word for them,” said Donnelly after Tyrone’s clash with Dublin on Saturday night.

“It's a massive task, as tough as it was to try to beat the All-Ireland champions tonight. It is going to take another massive effort and that's all we can do, give it a massive effort and see where it takes us.

“The last day, the third game, it is going to be a bit like the last day of the Premiership, it's going to have that buzz about it. There are going to be twists and turns yet and hopefully we can come out on the right side of them.”

Trillick clubman Donnelly was the backbone of the Red Hands’ effort against Dublin in Omagh. Tyrone erased the memory of last year’s drubbing by closing the gap from 12 points to three, but that was cold comfort for the athletic midfielder.

“We went out with the intention of winning the game and we just came up short,” he said.

“Probably a lot of our skill execution let us down and that is the most disappointing thing.

“We knew we weren't as far off them, we knew we could give them a game tonight and we did. But we are not in the business of moral victories.”

“But we are still in the hunt and we are going to Ballybofey and it’s going to be another test. We are still there, so there is no point in being too downbeat about it.

“I suppose they are renowned for the impact their bench has but I think a lot of our boys trumped that impact today, a lot of massive plays on the home straight.

“You expend a huge amount of energy playing that way for 70 minutes so you need that impact off the bench and we had it today. We are going to need it the next day too.”

The mood in the Tyrone camp was a welcome change to the downcast scenes of 12 months ago when the Red Hands left Croke Park to go back to the drawing board after a damage-limitation exercise against the rampant Dubs.

“It's a bit of a contrast in terms of how we felt when we played them last year,” Donnelly admitted. “We have full belief in our squad and in ourselves and we knew we weren't as bad as last year.

“We will go back on Tuesday night, the same as we have every Tuesday night and look at things that maybe let us down in our skill execution, and we will look to rectify that the next day out.”

He added: “We were still in the game right up to the final whistle, which wasn't the case last year.

“We were still in touch at half time, which wasn't the case last year. We were well aware that they target fast starts, so we prevented that as well. We matched them in a lot of areas and the one thing that was prevalent tonight was that there probably was more contact out there than there was in Croke Park last year.

“We will know better what we did better when we get the tape in the next couple of days.”

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