GAA Football

Mattie Donnelly: Tyrone must find fighting spirit

Francis Mooney

Tyrone need to find their fighting side if they are to turn the corner and put a poor start to the NFL behind them, according to skipper Mattie Donnelly.

Having suffered two heavy defeats in their opening two games, the Red Hands are rooted to the bottom of the Division One table, and struggling to discover form.

After being turned over with some ease by Mayo on Sunday, last year’s beaten All-Ireland finalists are in danger of being sucked into a relegation dogfight.

“We were in this exact same position this time last year in the league, so we are where we are and we have the experience of dealing with that and we are just going to have to fight our way out of that,” said Donnelly.

“There are seven games in this division and there isn’t one of them that is straight forward so as I said we are going to have to fight tooth and nail next week.

“There are only two teams without any points at the minute and we are one of them so the quicker that we can get points on the board the better. Obviously there is still plenty of time but we don’t want to be sitting with no points after three games and we will be going there to break our duck.”

A flat performance in Killarney was followed by another uninspiring outing at Healy Park in front of their own fans, many of whom were on their way home long before the final whistle.

It’s been a frustrating start to the league campaign, and Donnelly accepts that it’s just not good enough.

“I suppose we haven’t got into our stride at all in the National League 2019. That is probably the most disappointing thing. We got off to a poor start last week against Kerry and we fought back and had something to build on in the second half.

“We got the first two points (against Mayo) but then failed to kick on and that is something that we will have to work on. We weren’t at the races again and weren’t at the level that we need to be at.

“Mayo were at a very high level and credit has to go to them and I would say that they will be very happy with their performance.”

Tyrone did return to training later than normal due to their extended run in last year’s All-Ireland series, and preparations for the new campaign were interrupted by a squad holiday to Thailand over the New Year period.

Yet the Red Hands enjoyed an encouraging Dr McKenna Cup campaign, winning all five games to lift the trophy for the seventh time in eight seasons.

“The way that it unfolded because of a longer season we weren’t back as quickly as we normally are and then we had our holiday in the middle of that.

“I still thought that once the McKenna Cup came around we unearthed some new talent and played well and freshened the thing up and kept boys or our toes.

“That meant that there was no complacency and boys were putting in a lot of effort to keep themselves in the picture, so I don’t think that it is a lack of focus or a lack of want.”

The pressure is on as Mickey Harte prepares to take his team to Hyde Park next weekend.



Tyrone need a win to begin their climb up the league table, bit it won’t be easy against a Roscommon side that defeated Monaghan last Sunday.

“Hyde Park has never been an easy place to go and with them having a new manager in they seem to be getting a good reaction. They can play football, we know that, and they are very hard to beat down there,” said Donnelly.


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