Peter Donnelly’s influence tells on both Cavan and Tyrone

He continues to be a relevant cross-reference point whenever these Cavan and Tyrone teams meet, and the tangible evidence of Peter Donnelly’s body of work in both counties will be on display again in Clones tonight.

Peter Donnelly’s influence tells on both Cavan and Tyrone

He continues to be a relevant cross-reference point whenever these Cavan and Tyrone teams meet, and the tangible evidence of Peter Donnelly’s body of work in both counties will be on display again in Clones tonight.

The former Breffni underage Ulster winners whom he helped mould now stand in the way of his own county’s ambitions of making the Super 8s via the All-Ireland qualifiers.

And from what former Cavan manager Terry Hyland knows of him, Donnelly will have been doing his job this week quietly and effectively.

“He was very efficient in his work and what he was doing, but, like a lot of northern people, he doesn’t give a lot away!” said current Leitrim boss Hyland.

“They are very loyal people. When we’d be playing Tyrone underage, in terms of getting a nick of information? Forget about it!

“But seriously, he was a major part in our success and the lads respected him because he had been there and done it.”

Donnelly, a two-time All-Ireland and three-time Ulster champion, was coaching in schools around Cavan when Hyland picked him up.

“We were searching around for a trainer and of course, as can happen, you don’t see what’s right in front of you.

“Peter was in our system, he was an All-Ireland-winning midfielder, he’d captained Tyrone to an All-Ireland minor title and he was qualified in strength and conditioning as well as on the football side, so he was the complete package.”

Hyland and Anthony Forde progressed to the senior set-up, following the resignation of Val Andrews in the spring of 2012, having just helped Cavan defend their Ulster U21 title, and Donnelly went too.

In 2013 came their first All-Ireland quarter-final.

“He brought that winning mentality, that confidence in his own ability and he backed it up with the belief he had with his coaching skills.

“He was great at adapting to what had happened the week before and driving change at training.

“He was a willing learner as well, because he hadn’t really coached at that level before.”

Donnelly left Cavan to join Tyrone’s strength and conditioning team at the end of 2014.

By that stage Tyrone had secured a four-in-a-row of Ulster U21 titles.

His return home could not have been better timed and he was back where it all began,” recalls former Tyrone star forward Damian O’Hagan.

“I worked with him from U16 level and brought him to his first Tyrone minor trial.

“I said to the then Tyrone manager Liam Donnelly that the only problem with him was that he was three years too young and where to play him.

“They found a spot for him OK and he went on to captain the All-Ireland minor-winning team.

“His days are always football crazy any time I’ve seen him, but he is a giant of a man to our club.

“He’s always ready and available to help out with the youth, with coaching or senior training, although he has a young family, but he is an ambassador really for our club and Tyrone.

“And he was a raving success in Cavan, of course.

“The lads in Tyrone who work under him think he’s a breath of fresh air and say he goes to ends of the Earth to help with their strength and conditioning.”

Last year Donnelly took “all of about five minutes” to agree when O’Hagan, as Coalisland manager, asked him to go in goals due to a lack of available goalkeepers.

“That’s the kind of lad he is,” added O’Hagan.

“He hasn’t left Coalisland behind, anyway.”

In the spring of 2016 there were reports Donnelly had quit his post in Tyrone.

What exactly went on behind the scenes never really came out but it was resolved quickly enough — to the relief of Red Hand followers.

“There were whispers about him leaving, but thankfully it was sorted inside a week,” O’Hagan says.

“It would have been a crying shame if he’d been lost to another county.”

Tyrone were the last team Cavan wanted to draw in tonight’s fourth round.

In the battle to get over their Ulster final hangover, and a poor display losing to Donegal, they needed a change away from the Ulster scene.

Hyland senses urgency, and an opportunity.

“If you look at Cavan’s results overall this year, winning just three games in league and championship, they probably need to be getting something out of it,” he claims.

“One win in the league and two in the Ulster Championship probably doesn’t reflect the progress they feel they’ve made.

“Derry, who were a Division 4 side remember, showed there is a chink in Tyrone’s armour.

“So Cavan, if they get an opportunity like that, you never know what might come out of it.”

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