Football

Tyrone’s Seanie O’Donnell ready for mental and physical challenge of Derry at Celtic Park

Seanie O'Donnell Seanie O'Donnell (right) was among the scorers as St Mary's edged out ATU Sligo Picture: Margaret McLaughlin (MARGARET McLAUGHLIN PICTURES / C)

SEANIE O’Donnell acknowledges Tyrone face the ultimate mental and physical battle when they travel to Celtic Park to face Derry on Sunday.

O’Donnell was one of six NFL debutants as the Red Hands eased to an opening day win over Roscommon on Sunday, although the Trillick man has played championship football n the early throes of his senior inter-county career.

With an avalanche of column inches dedicated to Mickey Harte plotting the downfall of his native county anticipated this week, O’Donnell is focusing on the task at hand with both Derry and Tyrone winning their Division One games last weekend.

“Derry had a superb win away to Kerry at the weekend and that will have given them a huge boost,” said O’Donnell.

“To be able to call on a number of players who helped Glen win the All-Ireland Club is also massive for them and they will be eager to back up that victory in Tralee when they take the field for their first home game.

“We will have our work cut out for us this week to get ourselves ready both mentally and physically for the challenge that lies ahead. Conor Meyler, Frank Burns, Kieran McGeary and Darren McCurry missing last weekend, joint managers Brian Dooher and Feargal Logan drafted in a host of younger squad players for the Roscommon tie.

Conall Devlin, Aidan Clarke, Tarlach Quinn, Ben Cullen, Ciaran Daly and O’Donnell all got their first taste of Division One football and did their chances of staying in the team no harm at all following their energetic displays against the Rossies.

Ben Cullen
Tyrone's Ben Cullen and Roscommon's Colin Walsh in action at Healy Park on Sunday. Cullen was one of six NFL debutants in Tyrone's starting line-up Picture: Philip Walsh

A county champion with his club in 2023, O’Donnell added: “Derry have won back-to-back Ulster titles and it’s a good challenge for us especially with a number of new boys in.

“You want to be able to play and test yourself against the top sides and they are one of the top sides at the moment.

“We will have positivity and energy after our win over Roscommon, but we won’t be getting carried away by it.”

Darren McCurry is available again after serving a suspension that was carried over from last season’s Championship, which will give Tyrone’s attacking options greater menace against Derry.

Darragh Canavan had an outstanding opening NFL game, bagging 0-8 (0-5 from play) while Ciaran Daly – O’Donnell’s club-mate – popped up with 0-3 from play in Tyrone’s three-point win over Roscommon.

Tyrone carved out a couple of goal chances too, even when they were a man down in the second half following Conn Kilpatrick’s 40th minute dismissal – but a 17-point haul (just four from placed balls) was an improved return on their two Dr McKenna Cup outings earlier this month.

“I suppose in the two games that we played in the McKenna Cup we weren’t scoring enough,” said O’Donnell, “and that is something that we have worked on in training prior to the start of the League and we got some good scores.

“We have a lot of good stuff to take from the Roscommon display but we know that we have also plenty to work on going forward.”