SUNDAY’S Ulster Championship semi-final victory over Donegal was a special day for everyone involved with Tyrone football, and Mattie Donnelly recognised that a third championship defeat in as many years to Declan Bonner’s side was out of the question.
Tyrone ended their run of defeats with a six-point victory in sweltering conditions at Brewster Park, and Donnelly more than played his part with a stunning second-half performance.
When the final whistle blew, the Trillick clubman punched the air with delight, and he articulated the significance of the result in the immediate aftermath of the match.
“If we had lost that game it would have been a big setback for this county in general,” he claimed.
“Tyrone needed that win, because Donegal have shaded the rivalry this past few years and we definitely needed to get one up on them.
“You know, that rivalry will be a healthy rivalry for many years to come.”
At the same time, he recognised that it won’t count for much if they don’t leave Croke Park with the Anglo Celt firmly secured after next Saturday’s provincial showdown against Monaghan.
“When you look at it from a local perspective, it was big from the point of view of the Tyrone-Donegal rivalry, but in the grand scheme of things, there’s nothing won yet either.
“So that’s what we view our year on, we don’t view it on winning derby games, we view it on our success, and success for different teams means different things.”
Donnelly also believes Monaghan were driven by a ‘higher purpose’ when they edged a remarkable semi-final against Armagh last Saturday – that being, the tragic death of Monaghan U-20 skipper Brendan Og Duffy in a road crash collision the previous evening.
“That emotion, that higher purpose, can make you play above yourself, and we saw that.
“Armagh, in fairness to them, played an unbelievable game, played their part in an unbelievable game.
“But you just felt that Monaghan weren’t going to be denied, you felt that that higher purpose got them over the line.
“When you have that, and when you have the seasoned and the experience that Monaghan have, with the wee boost of youth and quality that they have, then that’s a very, very formidable force, and that’s going to be an unbelievably hard match that lies ahead.”