24 Jan 2022

Rule clarification enabled Declan Bonner dish out Donegal debuts

Nine players made their Donegal debuts in win over Down - seven of them off the bench

Donegal team v Down

Donegal team line up before the game. Photo: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

Donegal manager Declan Bonner gave nine players their first taste of senior inter-county football on Friday night - but only after needing a clarification on the McKenna Cup rules.

St Eunan’s Shane O’Donnell and Charles McGuinness of Naomh Conaill made their Donegal debuts as part of the starting XV and seven more first-timers were introduced by Bonner in the second half.

In the 1-13 to 2-8 win over Down, Bonner sent on Caolan McColgan (Naomh Padraig, Muff), Aaron Doherty (Naomh Columba), Odhran Dohery (Naomh Conaill), Jamie Grant (Termon), Rory O’Donnell (Milford), Mark Curran (Dungloe) and Ryan McFadden (Termon) for their bows in a Donegal senior shirt.

At one point during the second half Bonner was informed by the fourth official, Richie Donoghue, that he was only permitted to use five substitutes, even though the competition rules state that rolling subs can be used.

“We got confirmation during the week that it was going to be rolling subs and then all of a sudden I went to the fourth official and he said: ‘No, you can only use five’,” Bonner said.

“There was a disagreement there for a period of time. I had four subs already used at the time. He came back and said that he got a call that we could.”

Donegal, who saw Tony McClenaghan net a 50th minute goal, were behind when Odhran Murdock goaled for the Mourne men in the 64th minute.

Donegal, though, found a way and kicked three late points to get 2022 off to a winning start.

Bonner said: “They showed great composure, especially on that last play where we held the ball for two minutes until we got the score. 

“It was good to get game time into them and they got a two-point victory.

“We wanted to get some of the senior lads back and also to get some of the younger lads in - and that’s what we did tonight. It was a good blend.

“We had a lot of young lads in the final quarter, but they showed good character to win a match that was very close. They came out on the right side of it and that was very important.”

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