GAA Football

Our players have to get used to criticism: Donegal boss Declan Bonner

Donegal manager Declan Bonner has warned his players criticism will come their way Picture: Margaret McLaughlin

BOSS Declan Bonner has tried to drown out the noise around his Donegal squad - but warned his young players that accepting criticism is part and parcel of playing at the highest level.

Shorn of some of their best players in this season's Allianz NFL Division One campaign, the Tir Chonaill men came in for some heavy criticism after last week's abject second-half display against Kerry as well as lethargic spells in the drawn game with Mayo.

On Saturday night, Bonner’s players answered the critics with an impressive second half display that saw them come from behind to beat All-Ireland champions Tyrone in Ballybofey.

Describing the Kerry performance himself as “atrocious”, Bonner had cautioned his players that public criticism would come their way and for them to get used to it.

“We try not to pay any attention to it to be quite honest,” said Bonner.

“The only people I’m concerned about are the players on the pitch. We try and shield them from all that but there’s all the social media, it’s not easy. But we sat them down in the early part of the week and explained to them that this is part of it and you’ve got to move on. It’s a learning curve. This is Division One and you’ve got to be at it every evening that you go out because you will get punished.”

Goals from Conor O’Donnell and substitute Jeaic McKelvey at the end of each half were enough to sink Tyrone which eases their relegation fears.

Saturday night’s win was also achieved without key players Michael Murphy and Michael Langan.

“I thought it was a really, really good second half performance. We kicked some really good scores and a lot of those young lads came of age. Conor O’Donnell kicked some really good scores and Shane O’Donnell carried a lot of good ball but, to a man, I thought the lads were excellent.

“But we’ll not get carried away, it’s two really good league points and hopefully it’ll give us a chance to get some of our experienced lads back on the pitch.”

Even though their second half against Kerry festered with the players and management team, Bonner insisted there have been more positives in their NFL campaign than meets the eye as they prepare for the visit of Monaghan on Sunday March 13.

“The League, to me, I’ve been quite happy with the performances,” he said.

“In patches we’ve been good and other patches we haven’t but we’re bringing in new lads – we’ve used 29 players in the first four League games and it’s all part of the learning process for a lot of these young lads, but no better place to learn than MacCumhaill Park against the All-Ireland champions.”

One of the more fascinating features of last Saturday night’s absorbing encounter in Ballybofey was the cat-and-mouse duel between Tyrone’s Conor Meyler and Donegal’s Ryan McHugh.

The latter immediately moved into full-forward in a bid to negate his marker. Meyler still wielded some influence on proceedings in the opening half while McHugh’s canniness probably allowed him to shade the second period.

“It’s always the same,” smiled Bonner. “It doesn’t matter if we play Ryan at 15 or play him at number two, Conor Meyler is going to be picking him up. I thought Ryan was excellent and showed real qualities and leadership.”

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