Captain Donnelly points the way as Tyrone get off the mark.

Thursday, 15 February 2018

Captain Donnelly points the way as Tyrone get off the mark. thumbnail The Tyrone team pictured before the National League Division One clash with Kildare at Newbridge.

TYRONE are finally off the mark, and off the bottom of the National Football League Division One table, thanks to a late Mattie Donnelly strike at Newbridge.


The Red Hands won a thriller with a stoppage time gem from their skipper, taking their first points of the campaign.

A tense and thrilling tie between two teams in desperate need of a result was level seven times, but it was the Ulster champions who had the composure to close out the game.

"Coming down to Newbridge for a game like it was, a hostile environment, a big physical Kildare side, will stand us in good stead," said match-winner Donnelly.

"We'll learn a lot from our composure in the last five or ten minutes. There were a lot of things we did that we wouldn't be happy with, so learning from that and taking it into the next game, that's really going to really be the theme this year, learning with every game and taking it into the next one.

"Both teams were desperate to get two points on the board, two teams around a similar age profile and trying to progress.

"I know you can talk about good performances and that, but you really do need to be picking up the points at this stage, and that was very evident.

"There was a bit of desperation crept in for both teams, making unusual errors, and thank God we came out on the right side of it." Tension was always evident among two sets of players who were consumed by a desperate need to get a result, and there were many errors throughout a compelling tie.

"Both teams were making errors that they wouldn't normally make the whole way through the game," said Donnelly.

"It's just that when you do get that chance, you really need to nail it, and I just felt that whatever team took their chance, that was going to be the difference, and thankfully we were the team that done it."

And it was the Trillick man who displayed remarkable composure and leadership to shoot the all-important winning point deep into added time.

"It hung for a while, but it was at the stage where the clock was running down, and if we got a chance, we had to take it," he said.

"We worked it out wide, something we probably could have done more in the game, used the width.

I'm just glad it went over." But he was fulsome in his praise for the players who battled courageously from start to finish in pursuit of the vital league points.

"There's one thing you'll not go far without, that's a bit of guts, a bit of honesty, and I'm happy enough that that's always present in this team, and it was very present throughout the day.

"I know at times the execution and passes and that might not have been what we would like, but we can work on that.

"That hunger and being up for the battle, that's one thing I would never question these boys on." Now the Red Hands turn their attentions to their next league game, an Ulster derby against Monaghan on Saturday week.

"Monaghan's not soft, especially when they get you on their own turf in Monaghan. Down in Castleblayney, that's going to be a feisty encounter, it always is.

"But this will stand us well for going in there.

They (Monaghan) came down to Kildare last week and came out with a one point win as well, so it will be another hammer and tongs game.

"We're kind of going into a mini Ulster Championship now, the next three weeks we have Donegal, Monaghan and Donegal again. They're going to be bruising encounters," said Donnelly.

Mickey Harte's men had trailed for most of the first half, until Lee Brennan grabbed a goal, and in a tense and thrilling second period, they were level on no less than seven occasions, before the Ulster men struck late.

It wasn't until the 13th minute that Niall Sludden got the Red Hands off the mark, and by that stage they had fallen four points behind, Fergal Conway getting two of Kildare's scores, and Fergal Conway and Ben McCormack also on target.

An impressive spell from the Ulster champions saw then narrow the gap to a point, with Lee Brennan converting a couple of frees, but the Lilywhites pulled clear again, Paul Cribben making it doubles scores, 0-8 to 0-4.

Tyrone displayed a willingness to push men forward, and in the 28th minute, Brennan collected Cathal McShane's delivery to plant his shot in the net, before Connor McAliskey gave them the lead for the first time in stoppage time, his lobbed effort just clearing the crossbar with the goalkeeper stranded.

They took a 1-8 to 0-11 advantage into the break, and despite the best efforts of Kildare midfielder Kevin Feely, the home side just couldn't get their noses back in front.

It was point for point as Feely converted a string of frees, with Tyrone responding through Cathal McShane, Padraig McNulty, Connor McAliskey, Darren McCurry and Donnelly.

They were level going into the last five minutes, but McShane nudged Tyrone back in front.

Feely, with his eighth point of the contest, levelled again, and it was in the 76th minute that Red Hand skipper Donnelly struck a gem from far out on the left wing, under immense pressure.

Kildare scorers: Kevin Feely 0-9 (8 frees), Fergal Conway 0-2, Ben McCormack, Daniel Flynn, Paul Cribbin, Niall Kelly, Peter Kelly, Mark Donnellan ('45), Cian O'Donoghue 0-1 each.

Tyrone scorers: Lee Brennan 1-3 (0-3 frees), Niall Sludden 0-3, Mattie Donnelly, Cathal McShane, Connor McAliskey (1 free) 0-2 each, Padraig McNulty, Tiernan McCann, Niall Morgan (free), Darren McCurry 0-1 each.

Kildare: Mark Donnellan; Peter Kelly, David Hyland, Mick O'Grady; Johnny Byrne, Eoin Doyle, Cian O'Donoghue; Kevin Feely, Tommy Moolick; Fergal Conway, Niall Kelly, Paul Cribbin; Ben McCormack, Daniel Flynn, Paddy Brophy.

Subs: Jimmy Hyland for McCormack, Luke Flynn for Moolick, Chris Healy for N Kelly, Keith Cribbin for Conway, Casthal McNally for Brophy

Tyrone: Niall Morgan; Hugh Pat McGeary; Padraig Hampsey, Cathal McCarron; Tiernan McCann, Rory Brennan, Ciaran McLaughlin; Mattie Donnelly, Padraig McNulty; Conor Meyler, Niall Sludden, Peter Harte; Lee Brennan, Cathal McShane, Connor McAliskey.

Subs: Michael McKernan for McLaughlin, Darren McCurry for R Brennan, Conall McCann for L Brennan, Mark Bradley for McAliskey, Ronan McNamee for McNulty

Referee: Paddy Neilan (Roscommon).


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