Donegal weren't on 2020 revenge mission insists Bonner after Cavan victory
IT is Donegal who will be back at St Tiernach’s Park for an Ulster final showdown against either Derry or Monaghan on May 29 – but Declan Bonner insists yesterday’s semi-final victory over Cavan was not a revenge mission after their shock 2020 provincial decider defeat to the Breffnimen.
Played without any crowd, on a wintry night in Armagh at the end of November, Mickey Graham’s men pulled off a major upset when they halted the Tir Chonaill’s bid for a third Ulster crown in-a-row in stunning fashion 19 months ago.
Much of the pre-match talk leading into yesterday’s clash was dominated by that last meeting, and Cavan set about the game with the same intensity that ended a 23-year wait for the Anglo-Celt Cup on that occasion.
However, Donegal eventually grabbed the game by the scruff in the second half and goals from substitute Conor O’Donnell and Patrick McBrearty in the final 10 minutes sent the Tir Chonaill into a ninth Ulster in 11 years – and consigned the Breffnimen to the Tailteann Cup.
Bonner was beaming in a sun-soaked Clones moments after the long whistle, but brushed away any talk that revenge had driven Donegal across the line.
“Nah, not really - absolutely not,” he said.
“We can’t hide from the fact that we came up short on that occasion and we knew the dangers that Cavan would bring. We saw that first hand.
“It was trying redemption more than anything else, to be quite honest, within the group. We knew they would bring that energy and that intensity to the game.
“We were probably fortuitous to be going in at half-time nine points apiece, Shaun [Patton] made a very good save in that period.
“Any day Championship semi-finals are there to be won, it doesn’t matter who you are playing, and we got over the line.
“We’ve three weeks now to get ready for the Ulster final. Monaghan very good against Down and Derry were exceptional against Tyrone, I’m looking forward to that semi-final.
“It should be a cracking Championship match next weekend, and it’s going to be a difficult, difficult Ulster final.”
Yesterday’s game was nip and tuck throughout, with only a point separating the counties when – a minute after being brought off the bench - O’Donnell grabbed that crucial first goal to hand Donegal the impetus heading towards the finishing line.
Well done @officialdonegal team and set-up on defeating a tough @CavanCoBoardGaa side to reach @UlsterGAA #TheChampionship final.— Jarlath Kearney (@JarlathKearney) May 8, 2022
In the words of @murphm95: “It was a matter of keeping chipping at it… That’s the challenge.” #HardWork
Proud for my brother @ciaranjkearney #GAA pic.twitter.com/zrr7iCocRZ
“A goal was always going to be an important score in the game, it was probably fortuitous with the long ball in and Conor finished it. We’ll take those any day of the week,” said Bonner, who said midfielder Hugh McFadden had come off early in the second half with suspected concussion.
“It was a real proper Championship match played in front of a decent crowd, a proper day for football. In fairness to Cavan they threw everything at us.
“We played some really good football but at the same time we weren’t near where we need to be at, to be quite honest. We need to bring a sustained period of 75 minutes of football to the Ulster final if we are going to win it, but we look forward to that and it’s great to be back in it.”
The Donegal boss will be a keen observer at the Athletic Grounds on Sunday, but Bonner says he has no preference whether it is Derry or Monaghan in the opposite corner on May 29.
“None,” he smiled, “we’ve got to get ourselves organised and worry about what we bring to the table in three weeks.”