GAA Football

Mattie Donnelly is the real deal for Tyrone: Mickey Harte

Mattie Donnelly excelled in the Tyrone attack last Saturday night

TYRONE boss Mickey Harte says Mattie Donnelly is a huge asset to the Red Hands regardless of where the Trillick clubman is asked to play for his county.

The Tyrone captain was relieved of his sweeper duties and moved into the full-forward line for last weekend’s emphatic Division One win over Monaghan.

Although Donnelly didn’t register a score he was the architect of so many, and was only eclipsed to the man-of-the-match award by the irrepressible Peter Harte.

“He’s that kind of player,” said Harte, “it’s hard to say what is the best position for him. I think the best position for him is wherever we put him and he gets us some scores or creates some.

“I just think he’s a great player to have on the field. He has a lot of power, a lot of energy and a lot of know-how.

“I really don’t think it matters what number is on his back. He’ll give you a huge effort every day he goes out.”

Donnelly’s influence on the Red Hands is such that Harte argued had the two-times Allstar avoided a late black card in their drawn game against Roscommon, the Ulstermen would have gone home with the two points.

“I think if he’d stayed on the field we would have won that game.”

Pomeroy duo Frank Burns and Kieran McGeary shared sweeping duties against Monaghan as Donnelly delivered a super performance in the Tyrone attack.

Tyrone’s surprisingly easy seven-point win over an out-of-sorts Monaghan side was their first win in four NFL outings this season that eases their relegation fears and increases the Farneymen’s ahead of their respective League games against Cavan and Kerry this weekend.

Harte watched his side suffer back-to-back defeats to Kerry (a) and Mayo (h) before earning a draw in Roscommon.

But it was the Mayo performance that concerned him more than any other as James Horan’s men came up to Omagh and blew their hosts away.

“I thought we were a bit lethargic against Mayo and we didn’t show much fight,” said the Tyrone boss.

“We really capitulated to them and that’s not like Tyrone. I was happy enough with the Roscommon performance because I thought we’d a great first 20-25 minutes. We were playing against a gale-force wind and it was about a three-all draw.

“The wheels came off the wagon in one small period before half-time, and even then it wasn’t insurmountable… And the fact that we came back from seven points down in the second half and snatched a draw… People will point to that last-minute free reversal [in Tyrone's favour] but at that stage we were down Mattie Donnelly…

“[Against Monaghan] a response was need as points were scarce before the game. I suppose if we’d lost that one we would definitely have been in the basement area. It was going to be very hard to get enough points to stay up – it still won’t be easy but it’s a good start.”

Meanwhile, Harte welcomed the return to action of injury-plagued attacker Connor McAliskey. The Clonoe clubman was used as a late substitute in last Saturday night’s win after recovering from a broken ankle.

“It’s nice to get him a bit of competitive football,” said his manager.

“He’s been out for so long and he’s been dogged by injury over the last couple of years. So it was good to give him some game-time. I wish we could give more of the players more game-time. There are a lot of the players working very hard who aren’t getting much game-time and that’s the challenge of managing a quality squad.

“I feel for the boys who aren’t getting much game-time as they’re putting a really huge shift in at training and if they weren’t there, there wouldn’t be the same energy out of the rest of the players. So I want to compliment those players who are working hard and aren’t getting the game-time because they do contribute a lot.”


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