Declan Bonner has sights set high for Donegal after lockdown

Declan Bonner has sights set high for Donegal after lockdown

Declan Bonner's sights are set high for Donegal, even if there are only a handful of games left in 2020.

There was a glimpse of that ambition on Tuesday when Bonner spoke to the local and national media through the new medium of the internet ahead of the important league clash with Tyrone in MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey on Sunday next (4 pm).

When asked if there would be an asterisk or question mark over the All-Ireland title in 2020 because of Covid-19 and the timing of the competition, he quickly replied.

“Not really. Whoever wins it will be delighted to win it.

“It would be great for any team to go up there and lift the Sam Maguire. It doesn't matter if it is December, or September or October or August or whatever else," was his response.

“(For) The team that wins it will be a job well done.”

Bonner agrees that it will be a different game on Sunday next to what it might have been had there been supporters allowed in. Is the MacCumhaill Park factor reduced as a result?

“You would like a full house. Players are used to playing at that level in that atmosphere, and we are going to miss that.

“But it's the same playing field for everyone. There will be no spectators and it will all be behind closed doors.

“We like playing in MacCumhaill Park and it has been a fortress and we want to make sure to continue that that's the case.”

There is also the balancing act as to what team to play, especially as the sides are due to meet again two weeks' later in the championship.

“Everything you do is trying to balance everything out. We want to see lads in action and we want to see exactly where our lads are at.

“That's the most important thing from our point of view. Getting some of these lads back and getting them game time at the weekend.

“Yeah we want to win the match and get two points and I'm sure Tyrone will be saying the exact same thing.

“I think we'll just take care of Sunday's match and we can look forward to a championship match in two weeks' time," said Bonner.

"I know it's not ideal, but we have got to get out there. I know championship is coming up a couple of weeks after that, but Sunday is important for us."

As for the Covid-19 scare which the Donegal side experienced in September, Bonner says it was a difficult time. "We were closed down for 10-14 days. The first session was done and then all of a sudden we are missing another two weeks. But in hindsight it opened our eyes as to what can happen. Dr Moran is on the committee in Croke Park that oversees this and we were in good hands.

"You have to take a lot of responsibility because you can see what is happening at international level and across the water. These cases are not going away and they are multiplying every day.

"There are a lot of protocols in place now. We are working in small pods and lads. It is different but every county is in the same place," said Bonner, who added that players were travelling to and from training on their own and getting temperature checks on arrival.

"There are a lot of hand santisers about that were not there in the past."

Sunday's game is very important to both sides as both Donegal and Tyrone are not out of the woods as regards relegation. Both would need a win to be sure of survival and with Donegal having to travel to Kerry the following weekend for their final game, Sunday's game represents their best chance to get the vital points.

"It also depends on results elsewhere, but we want to hit the ground running and build a bit of momentum as we enter into the championship," said Bonner, who added that it was going to be championship like no other. "It's unchartered territory for us but look, we are delighted to be back playing competitive football again."

Asked if he felt it was a rushed format with three games (two league and one championship) on successive weeks, Bonner said: "Listen, the hands have been tied as to when we get back in. Has it been ideal, it hasn't. The club scene is still not finished and that was unfortunate. We just got the lads (Kilcar and Naomh Conaill) back in last week. It has been challenge after challenge over the last number of weeks and months.

"But we are four or five days away from competitive action now and we are looking forward to getting stuck into it now."

The Donegal manager is happy with the health of his squad and agrees that it is much better than when the teams were due to meet back in mid-March.

"It's much improved, to be quite honest. We have everyone back on the training ground, at various levels. It just takes that bit of time when you go back into the intercounty set up, even though you might be at a high level at club."

However, there are many different things for the manager to look at in these changed times. "It is a challenge from day to day. Look, I'm sitting here with a team in mind that's going to tog out next Sunday. Will that be the case? We don't know, we work towards that. Every sniffle and every sore throat, you are just so, so careful."

Donegal have had a couple of challenge games in preparation and Bonner feels they were important. "It was important to play those challenge games to see where we are. In terms of the health of the squad, it is in reasonable form, to be quite honest," said Bonner, who revealed that Michael Lynch, the reserve goalkeeper was back available for Donegal as his suspension was up last weekend.

"It is important for us and it has been difficult for Michael what happened," he said.

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