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Thursday 21 November 2019

Unflappable Tyrone quietly reach semi milestones

The Trillick man was superb after the restart, kicking three points and having a hand in both of Tyrone’s second half goals. Pic: Sportsfile
The Trillick man was superb after the restart, kicking three points and having a hand in both of Tyrone’s second half goals. Pic: Sportsfile

IT didn't escape Mickey Harte's attention on Saturday evening that Tyrone's victory over Cork had put his team into a fifth All-Ireland semi-final this decade and a third in a row, both records for the county.

He referenced both achievements after the game, proof that perhaps Tyrone haven't been getting the full credit they deserve of late.

Perhaps more impressive, however, has been the calm and methodical way they have plotted a route back to an All-Ireland semi-final after their Ulster loss to Donegal.

"It didn't rock us, we weren't down and out," observed Mattie Donnelly, one of the men primarily responsible for Tyrone's safe passage.

"We took a lot of learnings from it though, and that's what we've always done when we've had a setback.

"There were so many learnings from that Donegal game and it was just about getting momentum again through the back door.

"We always had faith and belief that we would give ourselves a chance to be back in this position."

Despite a difficult start on Saturday night, Tyrone chiselled out the victory they needed to avoid having to beat Dublin in Omagh on Sunday week.

Dangerous

"We spoke all week, we had identified how dangerous they were," Donnelly explained, "and how they performed against two of the best teams in the country in Ireland - the best side in Ireland last week.

"We can't say it was complacency.

"Their start was the worst start you can get in Gaelic football - that goal gave them a pep in their step and maybe deflated us a little bit. It took us a while to react well to that.

"Before you knew it, you were seven points down and we were happy it was only five at half time." 

Their poor first half showing saw Harte perform major surgery on his side, introducing three half times subs and also sending Donnelly into the full forward line.

The Trillick man (inset) was superb after the restart, kicking three points and having a hand in both of Tyrone's second half goals.

"He was also fouled for three more frees that were converted.

"Ah look, we reverted to the way we set up in the league. I was giving Cathal (McShane) company and it worked well in the second half. 

"Look... I, like a lot of the footballers in that team, are comfortable in a number of positions.

"The way we played, you find yourselves in a lot of positions and a lot of situations, so versatility has always been a trademark of Mickey's teams and that's something we try to focus on.

"I would like to think I could play any role Mickey hands me, week on week."

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