GAA Football

I put no pressure on players to quit Tyrone panel insists Clonoe boss Stevie McDonnell

Clonoe boss Stevie McDonnell is delighted to have Connor McAliskey, Declan McClure and Danny McNulty at his disposal, but insists there was no pressure from him for the trio to leave the Tyrone panel. Picture by Seamus Loughran
Francis Mooney

CLONOE boss Stevie McDonnell has insisted no pressure was exerted on the club’s three Tyrone players to quit the county set-up.

Connor McAliskey, Declan McClure and Danny McNulty opted out of the Red Hand squad three weeks ago, and their return to O’Rahilly Park has coincided with a spectacular upturn in Clonoe’s form.

Since losing their opening league tie, they have scored 10-38 in the last two games, storming to big wins over Edendork and Errigal Ciaran.

While county players must sit out the first nine club league games, Clonoe are playing at full strength, thanks to the return of the Tyrone trio.

“It was their own decision, to be honest. As a manager, and as a former county player, I would definitely never encourage anyone to step away from a county set-up,” said the former Armagh star.

“I think it’s only beneficial for any player to be involved, and the long-term gains for a player coming back into a club set-up are that they have been around the county set-up and getting better and getting quality football.

“So it definitely wasn’t a decision enhanced by me. The players took it on their own accord, and it’s one that I would certainly back them on, but it was their own decision.”

McDonnell admitted that the sudden availability of the team’s top three players took him by surprise.

“It was a bit of a shock, I wasn’t expecting it at all. They’re three quality players, and long term, hopefully it will benefit Clonoe.”

McAliskey, McClure and McNulty had achieved limited game time with Tyrone during the National League, and McDonnell stressed the importance of competitive action for any player.

“Whether you’re a county footballer or a club footballer, you want to be playing games, and those boys just love pulling on the boots and getting the opportunity to represent their club or county.

“We’re very fortunate that we have them back now. You can see the difference that they add to our squad.

“They’re key players for us, and I’m just delighted as manager to have them and to be able to call upon them.”

McNulty smashed in two brilliant goals in the weekend win over Errigal Ciaran, with McAliskey hitting four points in an impressive 13 points success.

McDonnell is pleased with his side’s response following an opening day defeat to Dromore, and the quality of their showing against Errigal at O’Rahilly Park provided ample reason for optimism.

“Two good positive results in the last two weeks, but they’re off the back of a negative result and a poor performance on the first day out,” he said.

“The boys were hurting a wee bit from that, even though it was a league game and not the be-all-and-end-all. We still wanted to start off the campaign with a win.

“But definitely they have responded well, and we’re happy with how they’re moving.

“But listen, it’s a work in progress, we still feel that there’s a long way to go, but if we can keep putting performances in like that, then we’re going in the right direction.”

However there were some anxious moments, and former Tyrone goalkeeper Mickey O’Neill rescued his side with a couple of superb second half saves.

“That’s the benefit of having a top class goalkeeper in your team. over the last couple of games, Mickey has managed to pull off crucial saves at key moments of the game.”

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