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Bonnar pays warm tribute to retiring Donegal defender McGrath

24-3-2019: Donegal Paddy McGrath takes the field against Kildare during the NFL match at Ballyshannon on Sunday. Picture Margaret McLaughlin.
GERRY McLAUGHLIN

DONEGAL manager Declan Bonner has paid a warm tribute to 2012 All-Ireland-winning defender Paddy McGrath, who announced his retirement at the weekend calling him the “consummate professional”.

McGrath's exit now means that only team captain Michael Murphy, Neil McGee and Paddy McBrearty remain from the All-Ireland winning side.

Bonner revealed that he had met with the player three weeks ago who told him that he was going to call time on a stellar career that yielded and All-Ireland title and five Ulster championship medals.

McGrath was a great man-marker, having squared up to some of the top forwards in his 12-year career and his incredible stamina meant that he could also often link up with the attack.

“I spoke with Paddy a few weeks ago now. Paddy has been the consummate professional," Bonnar said.

“I have been here for four years and of all the players you deal with, on the field and off the field, Paddy has been totally professional.

“He has been very unlucky for the last few years with injuries throughout the Championship and he is just aware that the time has come.

“But what a role model for the players. Those young lads, they all looked up to Paddy from the gym and how he went about that, on the pitch how he went about things too.

“The past few years have been difficult for home with the cruciate injury, and it was tough and we knew what Paddy could offer when he was on the pitch and he was trying hard to get back on the pitch.”

He added:

“Paddy has been there for 12 years at inter county level and he owes Donegal football nothing.

“And in time in terms of standards, he was always first class.

“We spoke three weeks ago, and he felt the time had come with all the injuries.

“A fully fit Paddy McGrath would get his place on most teams.

“But he struggled to get on the pitch with injuries, and he even found that too when going back with his club in Ardara”

As Donegal face an ever-improving Armagh in next year's Ulster Championship, Bonner is wary of their increasing challenge and is just glad that Donegal at least have a home venue and have avoided the preliminary round .

“I suppose the first thing you look for in a Championship draw is the venue and it is great to get that home venue this year.

“We know that Armagh are now one of the top teams, who are in Division One and they are there for a reason.

“They came very close to Monaghan in a fantastic Ulster semi-final.

“But we have played them a fair bit and they have always been tough matches with little in it and they are a huge physical team.

“They are very good offensively and just look at Rian and Oisin O'Neill along with Rory Grugan, Jarly Og Burns, Aidan Forker and Stefan Campbell are really serious players and they are a serious team who have made huge progress under Kieran McGeeney.

“Bit by bit they are getting better, and they will present us with a huge challenge.

“The last time we met them we were lucky to get a draw in the Athletic Grounds and it was great to see a fans back for that game on a lovely spring evening and Armagh really tested us in that game early on.

“They went ahead by five points, and it ended up a draw and It secured our place in Division One of the NFL.

“Hopefully we can have loads of fans and it is just so exciting to be back at it. We resume training on Wednesday and it is good to see the Dr McKenna Cup which is great preparation for the NFL.

“There will be additions to the squad, and we are looking at a lot of different lads at the minute.

“We have lads coming back from injury too, so we won't really know the shape of that squad up until the first League match."

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