GAA Football

Tyrone's band of brothers targetting 'Sam': Donnelly

Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly in action earlier this year.
Pic Philip Walsh
Francis Mooney

A SHARED loyalty, underpinned by an unbreakable trust, drives Tyrone's band of brothers as they close in on a fourth All-Ireland title.

Mattie Donnelly senses it in his bones, he felt the power of united purpose as Kerry tried and failed to break the defiance of a steadfast body of men who showed no fear, no respect for tradition or natural order.

And the manner in which the Red Hand warriors defied logic last weekend to take down the Sam Maguire Cup favourites spoke volumes of the strategic genius of those who painstakingly plotted every match-up, devised every intricate element of a brilliantly controlled riot of chaos, not to mention the intelligence of the men who carried it out to the letter.

"We were determined, and we knew that, despite the narrative that was around it, that it was never going to be as one-sided as it was predicted," said Donnelly.

"So we backed what's in that dressing room – the team and the shared loyalty.

"It's at a good stage of the life cycle, and we have a massive two weeks ahead for us now."

As Kerry walked into carefully laid traps and ultimately reverted to the random aimlessness of 2003, Tyrone exploited the chaos, the pandemonium, to seize their defining moments.

Tackles and turnovers were no less precious than the daggers plunged into Kingdom hearts by goalscorers Conor McKenna and Cathal McShane.

It may not have been pretty, but the honesty, the heart and the relentless workrate carried the Red Hands over the line to what, in the prevailing circumstances, was a quite astonishing All-Ireland semi-final victory.

"It takes on a life of its own, it was pandemonium at times there, and all you can do, the thing that has to be constant is the workrate, the intensity and the honesty in it," Donnelly said.

"There was loads of mistakes made all over the place and we'll have to tidy up on that obviously.

"But it's good to leave a game like that, a win like that, against a team like Kerry with a lot to work on as well."

The All-Ireland final between Tyrone and Mayo on Saturday week promises a super-charged episode of what both teams brought to their respective last four ties, against Kerry and six-time champions Dublin.

The Connacht champions, renowned for their remarkable levels of intensity and courage, will meet a side prepared to meet fire with fire, an explosive prospect of fury and ferocity to rock Croke Park on September 11.

"You're talking about all the pandemonium, the hard work, intensity – those boys (Mayo) have been the standard-bearers of that side of the game over this last few years.

"So they're going to be ravenous, and obviously we're going to be ravenous, so it makes for a good game, and it's going to take a massive, massive effort for us to be competitive in that game."

Tyrone appear to have crossed a psychological barrier and solved their goal-scoring problem too.

Having conceded six to Kerry in the League semi-final, they kept a clean sheet last weekend, and blasted three past Kingdom goalkeeper Shane Ryan.

"We were quite prolific in the goal-scoring chances. I think we took all three of the chances we created.

"And then there was some unbelievable last-ditch defending from us. We were stung from how easy they got them in Killarney, and there was some great reading back there, from Frank and them boys.

"It was some turnaround from conceding six to none, and then scoring three, and it had a massive influence on the game.

"We had full belief in the squad, we had a cause after what happened in Killarney that day as well.

"We circled the wagons, and we just said that we'd run as much as we can, tackle as much as we can, and see where that took us."

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