GAA Football

Declan Bonner: Donegal will never settle for second best

Donegal manager Declan Bonner during the game against Derry in the 2018 Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final at Celtic Park. Picture: Margaret McLaughlin.
Gerry McLaughlin

Donegal will not accept second best.

Given Dublin’s status and tremendous record in Croke Park, some are suggesting that Donegal, Tyrone and Roscommon will be just playing off for second place.

But that notion is firmly batted away by an upbeat Donegal boss Declan Bonner: “Donegal are not going up to Croke Park, just to have a look around.

“We are taking every match on its merit and we are going up to try and get us a performance that will hopefully get us a result and that’s the bottom line.

“It is a very difficult group and we have Roscommon away the next week and Tyrone at home.

“It will not be easy, but ultimately we want to be in that top two to get into an All-Ireland semi-final.

“That is the next goal and that is the next job that starts for us next Saturday night against Dublin.”

That’s the firm message from team boss Bonner ahead of Saturday evening’s showdown with the Dubs.

And, while he acknowledged that the absence of Patrick McBrearty was a big blow, he said it was a chance for others to shine.

McBrearty is out for the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament injury and was Donegal’s top scorer.

“A huge blow for Patrick and the whole squad but we knew on the Monday after the Ulster final so we will just have to plan without him,'' added Bonner.

“Someone else will have to step in and it is big boots to fill.”

“There will be tweaking to be done and the fact that Patrick is one of the top scorers in the country.

“We will have to look at that and the game plan will probably differ.

“It’s a squad game, we have men there training at a very high standard and I have no doubt that any one of them can come in and do a job on Saturday night.”

And McBrearty apart, Bonner reports a fully fit squad with Martin McElhinney, Martin O’Reilly and Nathan Mullins all back in training.

And despite the much-publicised Donegal request for clarity on the Super 8s, Bonner insisted his team had no problems with playing in Croke Park.

“That’s where all the big games are going to be, that’s the bottom line on it and its great when you are in playing Dublin in Croke Park in a Championship match in the middle of the summer, then you know it is something big,'' he stated.

“It is a challenge we were looking forward to, we are here now so let the game begin.''

When asked how much of a disappointment was it to him that his first two games were away from home as a reward for winning the Ulster Championship, he said: “I spoke about this and it has been well documented that as Ulster champions, or any provincial champions, their home match has got to be a home venue and I think that will be the way moving forward.

‘But we are where we are now and when we knew on the Monday after the Ulster final, the preparations began for Dublin.”

“Croke Park is top class and it will be a big test as Dublin are the benchmark and haven’t been beaten in the Championship since 2014 when Donegal beat them.''

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