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Donnelly targeting double success after horror injury

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Tyrone captain Matthew Donnelly

Tyrone captain Matthew Donnelly

SPORTSFILE

Tyrone captain Matthew Donnelly

When Tyrone captain Matthew Donnelly incurred a serious leg injury while assisting his club Trillick against Derrygonnelly Harps in the Ulster club championship last November, it was initially thought that the curtain had prematurely come down on his playing career.

Such was the damage done to a tendon holding his hamstring to the bone that remedial action, in the form of surgery in London, was required to offer Donnelly what was considered to be a glimmer of hope of a recovery.

But his rigid adherence to a detailed recovery programme, stoic acceptance of a demanding rehabilitation regime, and his own indomitable courage and resilience, gradually saw Donnelly ease his way out of what he calls "a depressing scenario".

With the days when he could not put on his socks or sit comfortably in a chair now firmly behind him, Donnelly has his sights firmly fixed on a dual sporting target.

His bid to land the first of these will be launched shortly when Trillick commence their drive to retain the Tyrone senior club championship title and his ambitions will then move to a higher level, when he hopes to lead from the front as Tyrone bid to wrest the Ulster crown from Donegal.

A play-anywhere dynamo, whose work rate is a byword in GAA circles, and imbued with inspirational leadership qualities, Donnelly is a manager's dream - and Mickey Harte will certainly brook no argument with that.

Rather than reflect on his recent misfortune, chartered accountant Donnelly - currently "busier than ever" as he works from home - is focused on the future, in the knowledge that 12 years have elapsed since Tyrone's last All-Ireland title triumph, while four provincial crowns have landed in Red Hand territory in the same period.

"I was gutted when I sustained the injury, especially when I heard words like 'career-threatening' being used - and to be honest I think this made me even more determined to make a recovery," revealed Donnelly.

"I suppose if the Donegal v Tyrone Ulster Championship match had gone ahead in May, as had originally been planned, I would maybe not have made the cut. However, right now, I am looking forward to getting into action with Trillick again and then hopefully I will be back with Tyrone.

"It was a double disappointment for me when Trillick lost to Derrygonnelly in the Ulster club series and I incurred my injury in that game, but now the priority for us will be to try and retain our Tyrone title."

If the coronavirus pandemic has caused major disruption to the season to date, Donnelly's unbounded enthusiasm for action persuades him that the final quarter of the year could yet hold rich promise.

And he makes no bones about what he feels will be a challenging spell for the Red Hands.

"We will be meeting Donegal twice within a fortnight, the first game in the league and the second in the Ulster Championship," he said.

"Our last league game is away to Mayo and if we manage to get over Donegal in the championship, we would have to meet the winners of Derry v Armagh in the semi-final. That's a demanding itinerary, but you would not want it any other way.

"Coronavirus has put sport in perspective, but still it's good to be anticipating a return to action."

Irish Independent