GAA Football

Reaching an All-Ireland is not enough for Tyrone: Mattie Donnelly

Mattie Donnelly won't be happy with just appearing in an All-Ireland final

MATTIE Donnelly says Tyrone won’t be content with just reaching this season’s All-Ireland final and hopes the “brotherhood” felt among the current squad can deliver the Sam Maguire.

The Trillick man has been arguably Tyrone’s most consistent performer from the day they crashed out of Ulster in May through the Qualifiers and Super 8s to last weekend’s All-Ireland semi-final win over Monaghan.

“This squad is like a family, like a brotherhood,” Donnelly said, who was part of the Tyrone sides that lost All-Ireland semi-finals in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

“There is serious belief in each other. We’ve obviously taken knocks but it’s helped us mature and get through sticky patches. There’s a great belief in each other and a great desire to be in each other’s company.

“And, I know it’s a cliché, but going into all the other semi-finals you mightn’t have been completely aware or completely confident of what was in our side, but this semi-final we weren’t looking past it - we were looking through it because we knew the prize was on the other side and we believe we are worthy to be there.”

Donnelly, who took over the captaincy this year from the retired Sean Cavanagh, says there was probably more pressure on the squad prior to the Monaghan tie than what they will feel heading to Croke Park to face Dublin on All-Ireland final day.

“We’ve fallen at this hurdle before,” he said.

“That monkey is off our back now, but we don’t want to be known as a team that’s happy and settling for getting to finals. The boys in this group have given a good account of themselves. Tyrone teams of the past have always given a good account of themselves when they’ve got to All-Ireland finals, and we’ll be making sure that is the same when we play Dublin in a few weeks’ time.

“In last year’s semi-final [against Dublin] we didn’t perform as well as we should have. All semi-final defeats hurt whenever you’re that close to a final and you come up short, and we were extremely determined not to be in that position against Monaghan.”

While Tyrone didn’t hit the high notes in their one-point win over Monaghan, Donnelly says that some credit must go to Monaghan’s never-say-die spirit.

“It wasn’t our best performance against Monaghan. Our decision-making probably let us down, but you have to give credit to Monaghan as well.

“They are extremely physical, extremely honest. I would know a lot of their players and they are honest as the day is long. They made it hard for us. So between that and our game-management not being as good as it should be it made for a lot of mistakes.”

Donnelly will escape most of the pre-final hype around his hometown as he’s based in Belfast.

“I’d be staying clear of most of it, but there will be a great buzz walking about Tyrone. You can’t avoid it. Football will be the number one on the agenda. You know, you can let it overwhelm you or you can feed off it. I know these boys will feed off it because they have a good grá for Tyrone people in general.”

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