GAA Football

Lockdown training breaches not our business says Donegal manager Declan Bonner ahead of Healy Park opener against Tyrone

Declan Bonner's Donegal begin their NFL campaign against Tyrone at Healy Park. Picture Margaret McLaughlin

SOME counties may have broken regulations in relation to training during lockdown but that was of no concern to straight-talking Donegal manager Declan Bonner as he looked forward to a crunch National Football League clash with Tyrone in Healy Park on Saturday night.

Dublin, Down Monaghan and Cork have all been sanctioned but Bonner said: “What other teams are doing is entirely their prerogative”.

“We can just worry about where we are ourselves and that's all I'm concerned about,” he added.

“These lads are working with our strength and conditioning staff and our medical team, and we want to get them in the best possible shape. They have done a huge amount of work and I would be quite happy with where they are at.”

Bonner admitted to being less than happy with the NFL format which has Donegal grouped in Division One North with Tyrone, Armagh and Monaghan. The Donegal boss described the format as a “mini Ulster Championship”.

“Is it satisfactory? It's not. It's a mini Ulster Championship with the real Championship starting two weeks later for us anyway in the preliminary round,” he said.

“It's not ideal but we are not living in an ideal world at the minute. We are just happy to be back playing. There's a lot of stuff going on there at the minute and there's still a fair bit of work to do in relation to Covid within our own county but I think we are moving in the right direction with these vaccines being rolled out more over the next few weeks.

“I'm hopeful that come the end of a Championship run there will be spectators allowed back in but for the time being, the only people we are concerned about is our own group and the Donegal supporters, and it's great for them looking forward.

“Even from phone calls and chatting to people over the last couple of days, they are really excited about Donegal being back playing again.

“It has taken away the talk of Covid and the doom and gloom that is out there. It has given us some hope and here's hoping we can out a smile back on those faces on Saturday evening.”

Bonner has been boosted by the returns of Gaoth Dobhair trio Odhran MacNiallas, Kieran Gillespie and Odhran McFadden Ferry to the fold.

“Odhran Mac Niallais is back in, and we have a number of lads who were injured for the Ulster Final last year and they are back in training,” he said.

“We would be happy enough with where the squad is and it is more or less the same as last year.

Meanwhile, Bonner confirmed that Eamon Doherty and Ciaran Diver are gone from the squad that will take on Tyrone at Healy Park in a mouth-watering return to inter-county action. He is very wary of the threat the Red Hands pose.

“Tyrone will be one of the top teams,” he said.

“It will be unusual not to see Mickey (Harte) on the sideline, he was there for a long, long time but I came up against Feargal (Logan) and Brian (Dooher) at U21 (management) level, and with a new management team coming in there will be a fair degree of freshness and energy.

“I'm looking forward to it to see where lads are at. Ultimately we are going there looking to pick up two points, we want to consolidate and be in Division One and it's going to be tough with a mini Ulster Championship.”

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GAA Football