People in Focus: Matthew Donnelly’s immense value to Tyrone and he’s “keeping it real”
Trillick and Tyrone GAA star, Matthew Donnelly, really is one of the most influential players in the national GAA arena at present and if there was a ‘transfer market’ in the sport, the double all-star footballer would be right thee at the top of the market..
An all-star nominee in 2013, the gifted St. Macartan’s footballer is well and truly established in that sphere having since won successive GAA/GPA All-Star Awards in the past two seasons (2015 and 2016) and, even though it remains early days in the 2017 championship, he looks to be high up in the contenders list again this term.
Having starred for Club, with a Senior Club Championship triumph in 2015, and County, he has of course already made his ‘mark’ in the International Rules with Ireland also. His influence continues to be pivotal in Tyrone’s charge in 2017 as the Red hands bid for back-to-back Ulster SFC titles.
As the stats show, Tyrone have scored a record 1-43 in their opening two championship ties in Ulster, and that was against apparent ‘big gun’ rivals in Derry and Donegal. Tyrone have made it to the Ulster final (against Monaghan or Down) with 20 points to spare and in the latter match Donnelly’s influence was immense. He was on the ball more than any other player on the field, with 37 possessions and was involved in 10 successful attacks, scored two brilliant points and directly set up two others.
Roll on the Ulster SC final and long may Donnelly’s influence continue!
Q&A: People in Focus profile with Matthew Donnelly
Football Honours & Achievements:
Ulster Colleges Dalton and Rannafast Cup, Ulster Colleges All-Star, McKenna Cups x 3, Ulster Minor League and Championship, All-Ireland Minor Championship. Tyrone Intermediate Club Championship and Ulster Intermediate Club Championship.
Tyrone Senior Club Football championship (Trillick) in 2015, Ulster Senior Football Championship with Tyrone in 2016, GAA/GPA All Star Award 2015 & 2016, National Football League Division 2 title 2016.
…Hobbies & Other interests:
I’ve maintained a keen interest in boxing since I trained at the sport when I was younger. I also like to dabble into different Martial Arts now and again. I like playing soccer for the Wanderers when I get the chance, and there is a golf course walking distance from my house.
…your earliest experiences with the club:
My first memories would have been following the ‘ole boy’ into club training and matches at the time. From there I remember him taking me, the brother and our neighbours/cousins for sessions on the back lawn as well as the bating sessions that took place down at Kelly’s lawn. This kept us ticking over until we were ready to join the Under 10s, who had training every Saturday morning at Donnelly Park.
…your school years, three big moments that stand out for you and who would have had a big influence on you in those years:
Magherlough Primary School was were I was educated in my younger years. The great Brendan Donnelly was Principal so there was never any danger of a shortage of Gaelic being played.
St Michaels Enniskillen was next stop where I had some of the best days of my life. Obviously the football was the main attraction and I was part of a strong team who won trophies the whole way up, yet fell short for the ultimate prize that is the Mac Rory Cup when we lost in the final by a point. It was hugely disappointing but the friends and memories made were worth more than the cup. People like Dom Corrigan, Mark Henry, Peter McGinnity, Brendan Rasdale, to name but a few, taught me lessons that I still remember as vividly as the day they were taught.
It is no surprise then that the 3 biggest moments involve the football. It all started when I was in P7 and the family met Dominic Corrigan by chance. He ensured me there’d be football 5 days a week and that was my mind made up. Winning the Dalton and Rannafast Cups was massive at the time for the school. Losing the Mac Rory Final was devastating but the trip the team had to Wexford that year was eventful, to say the least.
…teenage years: When growing up can you tell us about your three biggest memories of football in club or county…
Being part of a successful Tyrone minor team was massive and whetted the appetite for future ambitions. The same can be said when pulling off massive wins for the club in the championship. Captaining my county at the age of 23 was a surreal experience too.
CLICK HERE for Report on the 2008 All Ireland Minor Football Championship Final, in which Matthew scored 0-2 from wing-half forward against Mayo (1-20 to 1-15)
Tyrone Life – My thoughts on…
…your community and where you come from?
I come from a village in the West of Tyrone called Trileac. It’s a small community, in terms of population, but massive in terms of activity and togetherness.
It’s a great place to live, everyone knows each other and gets on well, and Gaelic is at the heart of all activities. I wouldn’t live anywhere else!
…some of the big characters in your community/club when you were growing up and any memories, stories or ‘nicknames’ that jump out when talking about them?
He’s became known as Mr Trillick, but we call him Patsy McCaughey. To think of the amount of lottos he has sold, cups of tae he’s drank and made and miles covered on the bike, all for Trillick, would make some reading. He’s not alone and men like Willy McElholm, Kevin Monaghan, etc… still make lifelong contributions to the community.
Shep Donnelly put many a young footballer through a days work of stacking square bales, just to see if they had what it takes to play ‘Centre-Half’ for Trillick!
Johny ‘The Wrecker’ Smith has also provided the local community with many memories, however they shall be kept secret.
…from watching Trillick teams over the years, some of the club players who stood out for you. What things impressed you about watching these players?
Damien Gormley and Eoin Gormley were great players, even though Eoin still has a few years in him yet. Damien was one of the best club players in Tyrone and many nights I would be behind the goals kicking balls out to him long after the rest of the team had left. Paddy Corry and Eunan McAnespie were great club players, while Eunan is still the most reliable player on the ball I have seen. Unfortunately I can talk about corner Sean Donnelly Jr. in this category, as we should still have him as a current player only for injury. I never seen many men get the better of him in the corner, hopefully he will be on the pitch again in the near future.
Iggy Gallagher was another player I had the fortune to train with on my first year and his last – I learnt a few wiley tricks from him as well. Further back it would have been Sean Donnelly, Brendan Donnelly, Pat King, my own father and the likes. The strength and commitment of those players has been well documented.
…International Rules: What do you think of this event and the experience it provides for players at the highest level?
It is unbelievable and means so much for me to be able to say I can represent my country and train and play against elite athletes.
Social Life – My thoughts on…
…places you have travelled to (anywhere in the world) – and best memories & places that rally stood out?
I have travelled to Austria, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy and Belgium to name a few. Rome and its culture was something that sticks in the memory, whilst Austria was amazing for its scenery and activtities.
…3 Funniest Footballers/Characters in the changing rooms:
Eunan ‘Blue’ McAnespie and Niall ‘Jib’ Donnelly with Trillick.
Joe McMahon with Tyrone.
…one word you think best describes the 3 players you named above:
Sly, Mischievous and Big – respectively.
My life & favourites…
Gaelic Footballers: Paul Flynn
Sports: GAA, MMA, Athletics
Male Sportstars: Ronaldo and Conor McGregor
Name 2 people who you’ve always thought were ‘spitting doubles’:
TV Show(s): House of Cards, Love/Hate
Movie: Semi Pro.
Sports Venue: Croke Park
Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? Why? Twitter, I choose what I have to see.
Inspirational Quote you like?
“Keep it real”
The video below, from Jerome Quinn Media, shows him scoring a goal for UUJ v Tyrone in the McKenna Cup while another video recently went viral on the internet, showing him in a Personal Training Session ahead of the International Rules trip, as it highlighted the incredible levels of fitness and strength he has reached in what many are deeming (in terms of training) a professional training era for the sport – CLICK HERE