WHAT has already been a season to remember for the Donnelly household in Augher could just get a lot better on Sunday.
Dara won an All-Ireland minor football medal with Tyrone last week and played a massive part in the success story. It was his goal within minutes after coming on as a sub that helped turn a seven-point deficit around against Mayo in the semi-final.
Of course he was only following a path set by his sister Lynda. Of the Tyrone team that will line out against Dublin in Sunday’s TG4 All-Ireland senior ladies football final, Lynda and Maura Kelly are the only survivors from the groundbreaking crew that annexed the junior title 11 years ago.
Two Celtic crosses in the space of a week would be something else for the Donnelly clan but the now 27-year-old elder daughter admits that she probably thought there would be a few more along the way.
“I suppose back when you’re only 16, you think when you get to All-Ireland finals they will come every day,” says Donnelly. “My first year was in 1997 and Tyrone lost the All-Ireland final that year so 1999 was a big push.
“In 2000 we thought we should have won the All-Ireland Senior Championship. We were eight points up against Mayo in the semi-final and lost by five. We had a lot of fantastic footballers on that team.
“Really that team should have pushed on but some of the older heads had left it too long to win that senior All-Ireland and they faded off. It has taken Tyrone until now to really get the settled team that has the belief to go all the way.”
After quite a few years in the wilderness, they have returned to the cutting edge again in recent years. Just in case anybody was in any doubt about their substance, defeating six-in-a-row chasing Cork, made everyone sit up and take notice.
Donnelly credits joint managers Niall Colton and Colm Donnelly for doing their homework and having the players incredibly well prepared. But none of it will mean anything if they don’t beat Dublin.
“I can’t wait for Sunday. Playing in a senior All-Ireland final is something you always dream about when you play football. To get this chance now is fantastic and we’re determined not to let it pass.
“It’s not just about getting to Croke Park and an All-Ireland final. There’s no point in just being happy with that. If that was the case, then what was the point in beating Cork, beating Kerry and Leitrim and Sligo before that?
“Dublin are very physical. They are a free-scoring team.
“We’d like to think that if we can stay with them in the first half, we might be able to push on.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved