GAA Football

Tyrone's Richie Donnelly on missing All-Ireland final after Covid

Tyrone's Richie Donnelly pictured at his club ground in Trillick.
Picture by Ann McManus
Francis Mooney

COVID – the silent thief that stole Richie Donnelly's All-Ireland dream.

Struck down ahead of the Ulster Final, recovery was slow and tortuous, ruling him out of the semi-final clash with Kerry and the Sam Maguire Cup decider against Mayo.

Donnelly had already been floored by the virus by the time the squad was ravaged by a major outbreak as they prepared to meet the Kingdom in the last four.

While the vast majority bounced back to take the All-Ireland series by storm, the Trillick man struggled to shake off the lingering effects.

As he slowly returned to health, the realisation dawned that there was to be no place in the match-day squad for what would have been one of the biggest games of his career.

"I got it the week before the Ulster final. It was bad timing in the peak of the summer.

"It was pretty bad. I didn't expect to take it as bad, it affected me for a good while," he said.

"But thankfully I'm back in good health. There's a lot of people worse off with Covid, so I'm very lucky that way.

"The goal at the start of the year was for Tyrone to win an All-Ireland, and that's what happened.

"Whatever happens within that, that's sport and that's life.

"Things don't go your way all the time, but I'm absolutely thrilled that the group was able to deliver an All-Ireland, and within the group, we never, ever doubted that we could do that. And there's definitely more there too."

Older brother Mattie was one of Tyrone's victorious starters and now the siblings are re-united on the club front as Richie is doing his utmost to park his personal disappointment and move on.

"It didn't help my case in claiming a jersey or a team position, but I don't look back with regret.

"I got Covid, I was out for a while, it affected me, but I threw absolutely everything at it and I have no regrets that way at all."

But all is not lost, and the season can be saved on the home front.

A new target has opened up fresh possibilities, and a third Tyrone Championship medal with Trillick is the focus.

The St Macartan's take on Killyclogher in Friday's quarter-final in a clash of two leading title contenders.

When they met at the same stage last year, extra-time and penalties were required to separate the sides and see Trillick through.

"The last six or seven years, both teams, Killyclogher and ourselves have been competitive.

"Whenever we face each other it's always very close and very tight, and this year will be absolutely no different.

"They will look forward to it, we will look forward to it, and it should be a good game."

Last season's Championship ended badly for the Trillick men though. As defending champions, they went on to lose the county final to outsiders Dungannon, also after extra-time and a spot kick shoot-out.

But Donnelly insisted that the slate has been wiped clean, and the setbacks of 2020 will not be allowed to interfere with their latest challenge.

"We don't really approach our football that way. We don't carry much baggage.

"We were beaten last year, and we just look at why we were beaten, and try to move on and learn from it.

"That's what we bring towards this year, we don't bring any baggage, we just try to bring learning, and we'll try and put that into practice.

"We're always determined every day we go out, especially in championship football."

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