Sports

Tyrone to face Down in Ulster final

Thursday, 29 June 2017

TYRONE will face surprise packets Down in the Ulster SFC final next month, following a massive shock at the Athletic Grounds.

The Mourne men sent Monaghan crashing out of the race for the Anglo-Celt Cup on an extraordinary evening to set up a repeat of the 2003 decider.

Down manager Eamonn Burns says his side will be massive underdogs for the Clones showpiece on July 16.

"We'll go to the Ulster final and we're going to be massive outsiders. Tyrone will be red-hot favourites but Down will play Down football and see where that takes us," said Burns.

But the Down boss feels his side has nothing to lose, having emerged from one of the county's lowest points to challenge for honours once again.

"Let's face it, we were everybody's beaten docket. When you come into a game and you're 10-1 to win it, you have to take the game to them," Burns added.

"I'm immensely proud of all of them. They played the way we asked."

Meanwhile, All-Star Mattie Donnelly believes Tyrone can produce another massive performance to match the triumph over Donegal when they take on Down in the decider.

He insisted that the players all believed they were capable of mastering their neighbours from the north-west, despite the doubts expressed in the media and among the public.

"Everyone outside the circle probably didn't see it coming, but we knew it was building inside us, we knew in the circle," he said.

"Obviously a lot of people will read into a bit of form in the league and even the first day against Derry, but Mickey is always saying you bring out your best when it is required.

"So we did that. We are happy with the majority of the performance and it is good to be coming away having things to work on for the final.

"Shot selection, by myself and the whole team, can still be improved on. We're going to have to lift it up another level for the final.

"We have been working a lot on our transition, and a lot of it was good, but a lot of the shot selection we can work on and we can bring to training now.

"When you have a good performance and you still have a lot to work on, it is a good place to be."

Donnelly feels the 11 points victory over Donegal was the best performance he has been involved in since he joined the senior squad six years ago.

"There were a lot of days where we just felt like we were in control, commanding, focused and disciplined.

"But in recent memory, it probably is the best. People thought the game was going to be a lot closer than it was, so to win it convincingly, it's fresh in the memory and I would have to say it is our best."

But they must produce it again if they are to win back-to-back Ulster titles.

"We don't see it as we are defending anything. We are going for the Ulster title in 2017.

"The tradition of Ulster football is that things are always hard got, there is never much in them and it is going to be no different in a few weeks time. we are going to go out, go at it in the same manner and see what happens."

Donnelly rubbished talk of training being a chore for the Tyrone players.

 "There is an impression out there that football is joyless, but it's from people who are not playing it.

"You ask anyone in our squad, they enjoy it. Number one, you enjoy training, you enjoy each other's company - that's the main thing.

"We like coming to training. Mickey (Harte), Horse (Gavin Devlin) and Peter (Donnelly) always have something different every night.

"We enjoy the training and the lifestyle of the county footballer. We are not monks all the time; we enjoy living healthy, but we enjoy going out and spending time with each other and winning."

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