Unbeaten Ballybofey run will have no bearing on Tyrone game insists Donegal boss Declan Bonner
DONEGAL’S long unbeaten record in Ballybofey will count for nothing when they run out for Sunday’s crunch Super 8 clash against Ulster rivals Tyrone, insists boss Declan Bonner.
You have to go back to the summer of 2010 for the last time the Tir Chonaill men lost at MacCumhaill Park in either League or Championship – an extra-time defeat to eventual All-Ireland finalists Down in their Ulster opener.
Since then they have gone 19 games undefeated, though this weekend’s de facto All-Ireland quarter-final with their old foes tops the lot in terms of what is at stake.
Bonner, though, was quick to play down any suggestion that hosting the game in Ballybofey would give his men a psychological advantage over their Red Hand rivals.
“Not really, we don’t talk about it,” he said.
“We know it’s a game in Ballybofey. The only thing we’re trying to do is get that level of performance, get that game-plan right and improve in certain aspects of it.
If we can get that, we’re in with a decent chance.
“Going out to the provincial venues is a big plus. We wouldn’t have had too many Championship games in Ballybofey in the month of August – it creates a great atmosphere in the county.
“There was a good atmosphere in Omagh [for Tyrone’s game v Dublin] and getting out to the regional venues is very positive.”
The 1992 All-Ireland winner also dismissed any notion of altering the size of the pitch after Healy Park was widened for the Dubs’ visit to Omagh last month.
“The pitch will be the pitch,” smiled Bonner.
“Sky aren’t coming this time, I think it’s RTE. Listen, MacCumhaill Park’s in really good shape, it’s going to be the same pitch that has been there the last number of years.”
With flying wing-back Eoghan Ban Gallagher expected to join star forward Paddy McBrearty in the stands on Sunday as he struggles to recover from an arm injury picked up against Roscommon, the strength-in-depth of the Donegal squad will be put to the test.
Neil McGee replaced Gallagher at Hyde Park and, with Richie Donnelly leading the line for Tyrone, it appears likely the Gweedore man will start on the Trillick ace.
However, Bonner insists he would have no concerns about drafting in any member of his panel for Sunday’s game, such has been the standard set in A v B games at training.
“The quality’s good in those games, Hughie will vouch for that,” said Bonner, nodding to midfielder Hugh McFadden who was sat beside him during Donegal’s pre-match press call.
“We place a big emphasis on those in-house games and that’s where a lot of the players stand up and that’s where a lot of the times we get our teams and match-ups from.
“Players are putting their hand up every night we go out. When you have a large squad of players, the intensity and the quality of the training sessions have been top class and there’s players standing up to be counted.
“Every day you go out there can always be a couple of surprises and that doesn’t just happen by chance, it happens from what you see on the training pitch and people who are doing their job. Everyone’s on their toes - there’s no guarantees for anyone.”