The Donegal minors face another tough test when they take on Roscommon in the All-Ireland quarter-final in Sligo on Saturday (3.00 p.m.)
Markievicz Park is the venue for Donegal’s second ever minor quarter-final (they defeated Offaly in 2006 in their only other last eight game). The picturesque Sligo venue is a good half-way house for the meeting with Roscommon, who were defeated by a late surge by Mayo in the Connacht final (2-16 to 0-14) after being one point ahead with 12 minutes left.
Donegal manager, Declan Bonner and some of his management team were at the Connacht final in Castlebar and are fully aware that there will be nothing easy against a team that has a proven manager in Fergal O’Donnell.
“I went down to watch the Connacht final and I thoroughly enjoyed it. For long periods Roscommon put it up to Mayo. With 12 minutes to go I remember looking at my watch and feeling this game could go either way. But Mayo finished well.
“Fergal O’Donnell has a great record at minor level. They have put in a lot of hard work at underage. We know we will get test. Fergal O’Donnell will have his plan.
“If we can get our performance level up to the level we expect, we are capable of beating most teams.
“The preparation has gone well. We went back the next evening (Monday) after the Ulster final. We had two hard sessions last week and we had a run out on Markievicz Park on Monday evening for an hour and a half.
“We will wind up our preparations tonight (Thursday),” said Bonner, who is well aware of the carrot that is there for his team.
“We spoke about this in the huddle after the match in Clones. I was talking to them about Roscommon and the prize is to play in Croke Park
“At the end of the day we didn’t look past Ulster, but now we have moved on from that,” said Bonner.
“We ’re hoping that come Saturday evening, we can talk more about that.”
Donegal go into the quarter-final as favourites but they know that they will have to produce the goods on the day.
Roscommon are regarded as a small team, not typical of Rossies teams. They have a scattering of players left from a very good minor team from last year, but most of them are in defence.
Donegal have a fully fit squad to pick from. Moville’s Tony McClenaghan took a full part in the session in Markievicz Park on Monday night which is good news for Donegal supporters.
There are likely to be no changes to the team that started the Ulster final and Declan Bonner also has some quality players on the bench who will probably be needed before the game runs its course, the likes of Ethan O’Donnell and Conor Doherty in particular, who would be regulars on most minor teams.
Their only flaw so far has been a tendency to switch off for periods in all of their games. They have been particularly good in the first half agaisnt Derry and Armagh, while they had a purple patch either side of half-time in their win over Antrim in the Ulster semi-final.
They now need to play for a full sixty minutes. No doubt the management have been working on that. The management also have had a tendency to make switches very early. They are on a learning curve also.
“We need to play for longer periods of time but we have played well in periods in all our games,” said Bonner, who felt that while Donegal let Armaghy back into the Ulster final, there was never any real worry for his side.
Winning an Ulster title as a manager was another tick on the Bonner CV. He has the chance to add to his own and his players’ CV this weekend in Sligo.
It will be a surprise if this team doesn’t take one more step on the rung. Donegal to win.