TYRONE captain Matthew Donnelly stresses that it’s redemption time for his side on Saturday night when they come up against all-conquering Dublin at Healy Park.
This much-anticipated NFL Division One showdown was always going to be built up as a revenge mission for the Red Hands after their humiliating 2-17 to 0-11 thumping to the Jacks in last year’s All-Ireland Semi-Final.
However a much more immediate, and just as painful, defeat last Sunday in their League opener down in Tuam against Galway has given Donnelly and his wounded team-mates even greater motivation to right the ship this weekend.
“ We have a bit of redeeming to do not just for last year but that Galway performance too. That was going to be the case anyway no matter who we were up against next week.
“ It’s about restoring a bit of belief in ourselves after Tuam and knuckling down. Dublin are number one in Ireland so we couldn’t face a bigger task,” stated Donnelly.
Tyrone endured a nightmare start at St Jarlath’s Stadium on a wet and windy day out west, conceding a goal to Galway captain Damien Comer just fifteen seconds from the throw-in.
From there on in they were always playing catch-up and while they battled gamely, despite the first half dismissal of Darren McCurry, they were eventually to come up short by four points.
Donnelly accepts that Tyrone have now made life difficult for themselves in the top flight, with matches against the big hitters still lying in wait.
“ It was disappointing. Obviously you always plan to try and get off to a winning start because it’s vital in Division One especially.
“You want to get early points on the board in your first few games and come out of them in a good place but after the opening loss that’s not the case for us.
“ Conditions were tough but they were tough for both teams. We were well prepped for that all week and knew it would be tough weather wise.
“ Galway are building again and they were always going to bring that appetite to their League opener on their home ground down in Tuam. It was a condensed pitch as well so we knew all the factors that were going to come into play.
“ We had a dreadful start (concession of first minute goal) and then tried to recover from that. We then had another big blow getting the red card. So down to fourteen men and after the poor start we had wasn’t ideal. If you are looking for positives we rebounded from that and being 1-3 to 0-1 down.
“We weathered that okay and then when we got it back to two points if we had closed the gap a bit more you never know but Galway were probably better value for the win we have to say.”
Last season’s Championship clash between Tyrone and Dublin at a heaving Croke Park proved a massive let-down, despite the pre-match hype, with the Red Hands containment policy proving ineffective in the face of a ‘Blue’ attacking wave.
Jim Gavin’s men went onto complete a three in-a-row of Sam Maguire triumphs and again this season look the team to beat, after a convincing opening night stroll against Kildare at the weekend. While a league skirmish in the dead of winter might have little bearing on how the year will eventually play out, Donnelly feels it’s important that Tyrone return to form after recent League and Championship reversals.
“ It’s a completely different ball game, when you see the conditions you face at this time of year. There’s no bigger task or team to try and bounce back against. “
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