GAA Football

Mattie Donnelly: Tyrone closing the gap on Dublin but shooting issues need addressed

Red Hand manager Micky Harte and captain Mattie Donnelly at the Tyrone homecoming into Aughanacloy. Picture: Hugh Russell.
Francis Mooney

Mattie Donnelly believes Tyrone have closed the gap on Dublin by more than the six points they trimmed off last year’s All-Ireland semi-final losing margin.

This time it was halved from the 12 points they separated the sides in 2017, but Donnelly feels the Red Hands are closer than that.

A ‘devastating’ All-Ireland final defeat has hit the Tyrone captain hard, but he feels his team has made massive progress and has the capacity to take their game to new heights.

“I definitely think that the gap between us and Dublin has now been closed by more than half,” he said.

“We’re starting to get into a template as to how we can play. But again there’s two big things of game management and shot conversion that we really need to address.

“There’s a lot of development within this team during the past year and I’ve no doubt that it will be maintained.

“All the players are at a good age, and committed to learning. If we’re to make the final step, then we’ll have to make that mark.

Donnelly has complete trust in every member of the squad to put in the necessary work that will see the Red Hands climb to supremacy once again.

“Knowing the boys in the dressing-room, they’re more than willing and able to make that step and continue the learning and improvement. I always believe in the players.”

The Trillick man is struggling to come to terms with the disappointment of falling short at Croke Park last Sunday.

“It’s utterly, utterly devastating and so hard to take.”

He feels decision-making on two fronts played a part in Tyrone’s failure to halt the Dubs’ drive for a fourth successive All-Ireland title.

Shot selection on the part of his players and a call by referee Conor Lane combined to leave the Ulster men chasing the game throughout the second half.

“We started the game exactly the way that we intended to do.

“I suppose our old bogey of shot selection and shot conversion kind of killed a bit of our momentum from the start.

“Then there was the massive call from the referee for the penalty.

“Obviously that also stopped us in our tracks, but this is still a massive learning curve for us as a team.

“It’s clear that our shot selection and conversion can really go up.

“Even dealing with momentum changes a bit better is something to look at as well and both things would make a massive difference to us.”

And when Dublin got their noses in front, with the help of two first half goals, they showed once again that they are masters in the art of defending a healthy lead.

“If you give them a seven-point gap then it’s always going to be very hard to get back and we knew that. But then we said that in the first 15 or 20 minutes we were more than seven points the better team than them so there was no reason why we couldn’t do that in the second half.

“I suppose we continued to chip away at their lead after half-time, but we just didn’t take all the chances that came our way.

“I suppose you need to be doing that because I don’t think that they had a wide in the second half. That tells its own tale.”

“Our penalty goal came with about 10 minutes left, so we felt that if we had got another point or two then we might have had them on the rack.

“But again we didn’t capitalise, and they deserve credit for going up and get another point or two.

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