Donegal manager Declan Bonner congratulates Eoin McHugh Picture Sportsfile
"Listen, it was a good all-round performance from the whole group. Delighted with it, to be honest. But we still have work today. We'll get back this evening. We're back in tomorrow and we'll get watching the Cavan-Down game and get ready for that Ulster final next week," was the immediate reaction of Declan Bonner after Donegal defeated Armagh in the Ulster semi-final in Kingspan Breffni Park on Saturday.
"It is the workrate of the team that I was really impressed with. They worked really hard and any day you go out and you empty it for the Donegal jersey, and they done that. Was it perfect? It wasn't to be honest and we still have work to do, to be quite honest. To get better as we move forward, we need that."
Bonner was speaking to the assembled press after the game and said he was delighted with the first half and especially with the 20 players involved.
"The bench was always going to be important anyway. We used it the last day well, and yeah, the boys coming off the bench made a useful contribution. And it was good to get some of the lads back on the pitch.
"We have picked up a number of injuries. I'm not sure of the extent of those injuries," said Bonner, who said he wouldn't know until he talked to the medical people.
"With a short turnaround it is not ideal for an Ulster final," said Bonner, who agreed that Stephen McMenamin's injury looked serious.
The manager was happy to have his veteran full-back Neil McGee back for the game
"It was good to see Neil (McGee) back. He's a great warrior. He had to come off at half-time against Tyrone but it was great to see him through the 70+ minutes today. He's a real championship player."
He was also happy to get Patrick McBrearty back in action for Donegal. "It was good to get him back on the pitch. He was out for 4/5 weeks. Yeah, delighted to get him back on the pitch and he scored almost immediately. He looked sharp and he will have another two or three training sessions," said Bonner, who said he had no preference where the Ulster final should be played.
When put to him that it was natural for Donegal to easy off after leading by 12 points at half-time, he said: "Listen, it's important, if you take your foot off the gas in Ulster championship football the scores can start coming against you fairly quickly. As I said the attitude of the lads and the way they applied themselves today to me was very, very good," said Bonner, who added : "You could sense it in the build up to the game all week, there was a real edge to the training. And we will look for that edge going into the final next week," he said.
The Donegal manager said he would have loved to have supporters present and have a packed stadium next week. "But listen, from our point of view, and I have said it on one of the TV interviews there, we are in a really privileged position where we can go out and play football and represent our county. Because the amount of messages in the last three to four weeks has brought a smile to people. And I can only talk about the people of Donegal. And let's hope those smiles continue. I know it will continue today.
"It's great because the doom and gloom over the last seven or eight months has been terrible for a lot of families. This has given them a lift; it has given them a different source of conversation other than Covid and we know the responsibility we have when we go out to represent Donegal on any given day."
Donegal now go in search of a new record, a third Ulster title in-a-row on Sunday next but Bonner warned against complacency.
"We were there in 2013 and we lost that final against Monaghan. It's an opportunity. We were taking it one game at a time, as you had to. Tyrone was always going to be difficulty; we knew Armagh wouldn't be easy and we know going into an Ulster final, there is no Ulster final handed out easy.
"Listen, we have to get back in and I'll chat to the lads this evening before we get ready for the next 7/8 days ahead. We are going to be at the top of our game again to get that result."
As for the quick turnaround, he said: "It's difficult but we just delighted to be playing games. It's difficult for the players who have picked up knocks. It was a physical game out there. Armagh are a physical side no more than ourselves. But I thought it was an honest game of football. Both teams went at it in the proper manner.
"The turnaround is short but it is the same for everyone. But I keep talking about the squad and it will be tested.
Asked about the tactic of using the mark, Bonner was happy. "Listen, we work on all aspects of a game plan. I think we had three (marks) today and the goal came from one that Michael (Murphy) knocked on. Listen, it is there to be used when you can utilise it, you do. We were happy with that element but there are other elements we need to improve on," said Bonner, who said they would look at the video and take it from there.
The Donegal boss said he was never a great fan of the forward mark. "I still wouldn't be, but it's there. It can slow the game down. But while it's there you work with it.
"But listen the performance and the attitude of the players and the way they applied themselves was the big thing for me today."
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