Donnelly delighted at Red Hands' cool heads
Published 25/01/2016 | 02:30
Tyrone's calmness under pressure was the crucial factor in their Dr McKenna Cup triumph, according to Mattie Donnelly.
"We're taught to just go to the end and not worry about the scoreboard, keep it calm," said the half-forward.
"We probably were dead and buried again, and that's good habits, to keep calm. We weren't overly worried about the result, we were just getting the basics right, and it stood to us well near the end.
"When it got a bit out of control, we were able to keep our heads and make the right decisions, and that's good, no matter what time of year it is.
"When games are in the melting pot, and there's a bit of pandemonium, it's good to get into the habit of keeping your head and making good decisions in the heat of the battle, and I think we did that.
"There's a lot to work on obviously, but at this time of year you couldn't ask for more. That's worth ten training sessions.
"Regardless what competition it is, any time you have a chance to make history, you have to take it.
"It's a good sign when you're winning these competitions, it's a good sign of squad strength."
All-Star Donnelly is one of a handful of established stars with no worries over the security of their places in the squad. But this is a crucial week for several young prospects sweating over their futures, as manager Mickey Harte prepares for the annual cull.
Donnelly has been inspired by the passion displayed by the newcomers whose dream will either be realised or shattered.
"They're so full of positive energy, and they're not content to sit there and bide their time," he said. "They're putting in more work than any of the seasoned players, and they're ready to nail down a spot.
"You see the core of that team developing now from underage. That's how they have acquitted themselves."
It's a week that also sees Tyrone begin the task of returning to the top tier of the National Football League, with Cavan visiting Healy Park for the Division 2 opener on Sunday.
A positive start is essential, with promotion the bottom line.
"That's the goal now. This is good preparation for next Sunday against Cavan. That's going to be another real tough battle, but we have good preparation for it, and it's one we would want to win," said Donnelly.
It's one of four Ulster derby ties facing the Red Hands during their League campaign.
But the one that everyone is looking forward to is the next instalment of the Tyrone-Derry story, which has already stoked the embers of a notorious rivalry.
"Tyrone-Derry rivalry has stood the test of time, and I think that's because of the deep-lying respect both counties have for each other," said Donnelly. "We both go at it hard but fair, and if what has gone before is anything to go by, it makes for an interesting few months."