Donegal boss Declan Bonner wary of strong Cavan U21 side in Ulster semi-final
Eirgrid Ulster U21 Football Championship semi-final: Donegal v Cavan (Wednesday, Brewster Park, 8pm)
“WE ain’t won nothing yet!''
That's Donegal Under 21 boss Declan Bonner’s firm assertion ahead of tonight’s Ulster Championship semi-final clash with old rivals Cavan in Brewster Park, 8pm throw-in.
It took a replay for Tir Chonaill to get over Tyrone in Ballybofey last week, their superior physique and finishing power proving crucial against a gritty Red Hands side.
That victory may have led some to dream of Ulster titles, especially given that Michael Carroll, Cian Mulligan, Jamie Brennan, Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Kieran Gillespie and Michael Langan all featured on Rory Gallagher’s senior side against Monaghan on Sunday.
But Bonner is very wary of he Ides of Breffni in March.
“We have won nothing yet and while it was good to eventually get over Tyrone we have been firmly focusing on Cavan since last Wednesday night,'' he said.
“Donegal has had a great rivalry with Cavan over the past six or seven years and they are always very strong at this level.
“We have had them watched a few times and they had a big win over Fermanagh last week.
“They have big names in Caoimhin O’Reilly and Ryan Connolly who are real speed machines up front and Bryan Magee and Matthew McKenna are also pretty accurate.
“Pierce Smith is also a key figure for them so we will be very wary of them.”
Bonner had an anxious 70 minutes in Ballyshannon to see if his U21’s came through unscathed but will have no worries on that score.
“Thankfully all the boys came through ok which means we can prepare for this with a relatively full squad for what could be a tough test,” he said.
Bonner is in charge of one of the most physically powerful Under 21 sides ever to come out of the county.
Eoghan Ban Gallagher, Kieran Gillespie, Michael Carroll, Michael Langan, Tony McClenaghan, Stephen McMenamin, Caolan McGonigle are all over six foot while the equally towering Jason McGee and Rory Carr are on their way back from injury.
And, he has been with this squad for the past six years since they were Under 15’s.
Also Donegal have won Ulster minor titles in 2014 and 2015 and are favoured to advance against Cavan.
“I have been with these lads for quite a few years and we do tend to produce some good footballers every year in Donegal but these lads have developed into some fine players,'' stated Bonner.
“Of course he ultimate objective at underage level is to turn the players into good seniors.
“And these guys have certainly proved that at their clubs and on the Donegal senior panel.”
And, Bonner could be even stronger should Donegal prevail against Cavan as the powerful Jason McGee and Rory Carr are steadily coming back to full fitness.
“Jason got injured playing against Cavan and is gradually coming on while Rory Carr has been out for the best part of a year,'' he explained.
“Rory just needs some game time and has been coming on for short periods already against Tyrone.”
Cavan always bring a good travelling crowd to Brewster Park and have a proud recent record in this competition.
But, on balance, Donegal’s sheer power and physique and the considerable senior experience of the squad should be too much for the gritty Breffni boys.