GAA Football

Inter-county action can boost morale - Tyrone captain Mattie Donnelly

Tyrone captain Mattie Donnelly (left) is hoping to see inter-county action this year.
Picture Seamus Loughran
Francis Mooney

TYRONE captain Mattie Donnelly says flagging morale amongst the people of Ireland will receive a boost if the inter-county season goes ahead.

He is keen to see plans to complete the 2020 campaign brought to fruition in order to lift the spirits of the nation.

Continuing concerns over the spread of Covid-19 have given rise to doubts over the feasibility of the GAA’s revised fixtures calendar, with the National Leagues scheduled to resume in mid-October, followed by the Championship.

“To see people’s counties going at it representing their county jersey with pride will bring great joy to the people throughout the country in a time when it’s badly needed,” said Donnelly.

Earlier this week, his Tyrone team-mate Darren McCurry called on the GAA to scrap the inter-county season, citing concerns over the welfare of players and the demands being placed on them.

But the Red Hand skipper said the success of the revamped club season, even without substantial crowds, has demonstrated the importance of gaelic games to communities up and down the country.

“We saw with crowd restrictions, the people watching at home and the people lucky enough to be there, saw two teams going at it, representing their parish.

“It still brings great joy, and that is very important for people’s wellbeing. It’s the same with the county.”

It seems likely that crowd restrictions will continue for some time, with the possibility that inter-county games will be played behind closed doors.

“They seem keen to push ahead regardless of crowd restrictions.”

In the meantime, all the focus is on the club scene, and the Trillick clubman is to continue his quest for back to back county championship titles in a semi-final against Coalisland this weekend.

With just a week to recover from an energy-sapping quarter-final win over Killyclogher, which required extra-time and penalties, the holders face a big test against the 2018 champions.

“It will be tough, but at the same time it will give us great belief in each other, and great belief that if there’s a battle there, we’ll be ready for it.”

Donnelly felt the experience of defeat in a penalty shoot-out to Derrygonnelly in the Ulster Club Championship last November stood to Trillick when the faced another sudden death spot kick challenge last weekend.

“We had that experience in our bank, and we had that to fall back on. Maybe it did count, but you can’t take away from the fact that it’s still a high pressure situation and all the 10 players that stepped up to take penalties deserve great credit, because there was a lot of pressure on it, and we’re just grateful to come out the right side of it.

“We had a lot of talented boys taking penalties, and the odds are stacked against the ‘keeper. And with pressure and everything thrown into the mix, it is a highly pressurised situation.

“Maybe we had the experience, but the one thing we did say is when we’re in that situation, just kick the ball, kick through it, and kick it with conviction. Whatever else happens, we’ll be proud of our efforts, and that was the main thing.”

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GAA Football