Richie Donnelly: Tyrone going into lion’s den against on-song Cavan

Trillick ace expects Red Hands to face hostile atmosphere in Ulster quarter-final

Richie Donnelly's versatility could prove even more important to Tyrone joint-managers Feargal Logan and Brian Dooher in the wake of a raft of departures from the Red Hand panel. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Richie Donnelly expects Tyrone to have their hands full when they meet Cavan at Kingspan Breffni on April 21. Picture by Seamus Loughran

RICHIE Donnelly has warned that Tyrone are heading into a hostile environment when they face Cavan on April 21.

Kingspan Breffni will be an inhospitable place for a Red Hand side hoping to prevent Cavan from taking a second Division One scalp.

Big Championship days invoke a special resonance in one of the GAA’s most historic stadiums, and Raymond Galligan’s men are on a high following their victory over Monaghan – meaning their Ulster quarter-final clash with Tyrone will attract a huge following.

“It’s a ground that Cavan people are going to fill, they’ll bring a huge voice and a big crowd to that game so as I’d say it’s something the lads will prepare for,” said Donnelly.

“It’ll be a very hostile environment but they’re the type of cagey environments you want to play Championship football in.

“A lot of these boys have good experience in those type of environments so they’ll embrace that as opposed to seeing it as a bad thing.”

A second half goal rush sunk Monaghan in Clones in last weekend’s preliminary round tie and, now with home advantage, the Breffni Blues are targeting the vulnerabilities of a Tyrone side dogged by inconsistency and ravaged by injuries.

“It’s a tricky one for Tyrone but I’d expect the boys to respect Cavan for the strengths that they’re going to bring,” added the Trillick stalwart.

“They’ve shown they’re strong in a number of areas on the field, I’d expect Tyrone to be prepared for that and ready to face that.”

Monaghan's Ryan Wylie and Cavan's Ciarán Brady
Cavan toppled Monaghan in Sunday's Ulster SFC preliminary round clash in Clones. Picture by Philip Walsh

The venue has traditionally been a difficult one for Tyrone, who came close to elimination from the All-Ireland round robin series at Breffni last season, when Westmeath missed a late free which would have given them a shock win.

“Breffni Park’s never an easy place to go to so we’ve got our work cut out.

“Tyrone have their own strengths and fires that Cavan will need to put out. It makes for an interesting one.”

Donnelly also scotched speculation that he may rejoin to the squad after opting out prior to the start of the season, but he did leave the door open to a possible return at some stage in the future.

“Not short-term, no. I’ve a few issues with the body to get sorted as well. If I was in the set-up I wouldn’t be much use at the minute, so not short-term.”

But he’s backing his young club-mates Seanie O’Donnell and Ciaran Daly to make an impact in this year’s Championship. Both have nailed down places in the team with strong performances throughout a difficult National League campaign.

“I’ve been watching very closely and with great pleasure too, they’ve both featured and slotted in very well. They’ve given a great account of themselves in the League.

“They’ve shown they’re at a really good level to have a good career at inter-county football and Liam [Gray] has been hampered with injury, but I think he’s back in the mix now so it’ll be interesting to see how he grows and develops.”