Donegal boss Bonner defends decision to use Michael Murphy against Down
Donegal team boss Declan Bonner has defended the somewhat surprising decision to start talismanic team captain Michael Murphy against Down in their last outing in Newry, last Sunday week.
That debate was fuelled by the sight of Murphy withdrawing from the action just over 20 minutes into a most one-sided affair.
And there have been concerns that his brief appearance may have set his progress back, in a game where he was not really needed, ahead of Sunday's Ulster SFC quarter-final against neighbours Derry.
In replying to these concerns, Bonner told yesterday's press conference:
"Look, everybody is entitled to their opinion, but I suppose you need to go by the facts and the facts of the matter were, and are, that you have to go through a rigorous protocol to get yourself in contention.
"But if there are any lingering doubts there are protocols in place with the team doctor and head of physios, Cathal Ellis, so those guys will come to me and either say he's available for selection or he's not available for selection, that's just the way it is.
"That's not just for Michael Murphy, it's for everybody else.
"There are a lot of injuries at the moment, you see that week in and week out with a lot of soft tissue injuries especially. But at the minute we are quite hopeful that we have everyone available, bar Jeaic MacCeallbhuí and Kieran Gillespie.
"Michael came off when he felt it tighten up.
Yeah, it's something that has to be monitored on a daily basis, all those injuries are.
"There was a stage where we had eight or nine lads with the medical staff under Cathal and Kevin, who have done great work over the last number of weeks to get everybody back on the pitch.
Bonner added that Odhrna MacNiallais,, who had to go off against Dublin, was back in training immediately after the Down game.
But Bonner is fully aware that Rory Gallagher's Derry will present a much bigger challenge to Donegal than Down.
"There's no doubt, yeah.
"They are chalking up big scores, there are always good footballers in Derry, if you look at their college system and their underage system, they've always been strong.
"I battled against them at underage level right the way through and they were always well organised, always good footballers.
"They have done well, there's no doubt Derry are a top ten team and they should always be up around there.
"The club structure in the county is very strong, a lot of very strong clubs, so it's no surprise to be quite honest.
"Our preparation for them started immediately after we left Newry two weeks ago".
But Bonner does not accept that the deep insider knowledge that ex Donegal boss Rory Gallagher has of Tir Conaill will be an extra challenge for Donegal.
"We are not going to worry about what Rory is going to do, we will just get ourselves right.
"At the end of the day, we have15 players to put on the pitch and another five to come off the bench and make a contribution and that is all we are focussed on.
"If we get our performance right then we will be in with a big chance, but it will need to be 75/76 minutes on Sunday because we know what is coming ahead of us and what challenge Derry will bring and we are going to be ready for that.".
When asked how much significance would he place on Rory's knowledge of Donegal, he replied:
"That will always come up because he has been involved in the past but it does not make any wild difference to be quite honest.
"Football has moved on and changed.
"I see a development every year to be quite honest and we have not paid too much heed to that over the las while.
"We are just getting our end of it right.
"Yeah, you look at Derry, the challenges they are going to bring, the threats they will bring but we are looking to get our end of it right and that has been the challenge over the last four/five training sessions.
"We know it is going to a big test, there is no doubt.
"Derry are very, very fit, they are well set-up, they have a lot of attacking options, so we have to be ready for a battle.
Bonner said it "was not all about Michael Murphy" when it was suggested that his absence has allowed others to emerge as leaders.
"A fully fit Michael Murphy gets his place on any team and on any given day.
"We are hopeful that we will have Michael back on the pitch.
"But it is not all about Michael Murphy and Michael is aware of that.
"It is about the whole group
He is an important player and had been for the last 12/13 years.
"As Donegal captain he brings those leadership qualities to every training session, to everything we do.
"But we have a lot of players who have been there for the last three or four years, a lot guys who came through the underage ranks with myself, the likes of Stephen McMenamin, Eoghan Ban [Gallagher], Jamie Brennan, Michael Langan, Ciaran Thompson and all those players, they are now in their mid 20's and this is the time to stand up.
"And they have been doing that to be quite honest, they have been producing big performances and there are a lot of real leaders emerging in the group and that is going to be very important".