Donegal U-21 manager Declan Bonner on the line against Dublin
"It's crazy to be quite honest. We had to turn around after an Ulster final in five days and play that match. It's not fair on the players or anyone else involved and Ulster Council would need to take a good look at themselves in terms of why this was the case. There was no Plan B in place. Every other province had a two week break before an All Ireland semi- final."
That was the reaction of Declan Bonner in the aftermath of Donegal losing out to Dublin in Kingspan Breffni Park in the last four game.
"Listen, we're not making excuses – it was a flat performance from our point of view – but the turnaround was crazy," said Bonner.
"It was a very flat performance. Disappointing. We know we are much better than that. From the off you you see that there was a certain amount of flatness there and disappointing because of the work that these boys put in - both players and management and we just didn't get to the levels today.
"Overall it was a flat performance and I think the five day turnaround was too short. The levels that are required at this level and the amount of work that goes into a match. To turn that around in five das was just too much – a step too far for these players," said Bonner.
"We came out at start of second half – maybe four or five minutes – but you could see the energy just drain away again. Go right throughout the team – and I'm not going to name any individuals – but it was a flat performance.
"End of the day we wish Dublin all the best. They had their two or three week break to get ready and that definitely helped them and we wish them well in All-Ireland final."
The Donegal manager felt the loss of Kieran Gillespie was also a huge blow. "He's a senior inter county player. Normally these defenders would have been much tighter. To me we were always that step – maybe two steps – behind that what we normally are. The energy we had right throughout the Ulster campaign wasn't there. That's disappointing
"From Monday night we were late getting back and there was little you could do. It was basically about recovery for 2/3 days and there was little we could get done. We done analysis on Dublin. We felt preparation was right but it's very difficult. At the back of my mind I felt that we could have been flat. It's very difficult to keep getting players up to that level – it just wasn't to be," said Bonner.
The manager said winning the provincial title was brilliant, but the boys deserved to have had the time to celebrate it.
"The work those guys have put in – the effort – I have to thank all the players involved. The 30 plus squad - really committed bunch of lads. The management team really put in huge shifts. It's a disappointing way to end because we know that we're much better than we put on out there today.
"After Monday night all we could think about was recovery and getting ready for Dublin in five days.People talk about player welfare and the amount of games. That there is a crazy situation that you have to turnaround Ulster final and then All-Ireland semi final in five days," said Bonner, who added that the other three provinces had their houses in order. "That's the reality," he said.
Bonner, however, felt that the players have a bright future. "No doubt about that. There are a number of very good players but some of them who are in the Donegal senior squad need a couple of weeks off to recharge the battery for their own; some of them really looked tired out there but the future of Donegal football is bright."
The manager revealed that they had asked for the game to be put back but they were told it was going ahead.
"It could have been worse. If Donegal had beat Mayo and got into the league final, that game would have been on Sunday and the Ulster final would have been on the Wednesday night and we would still of have to come here today.
"We got extra day and a half; it wasn't enough. It's just been a very very busy schedule. Winning Ulster you would have liked to have a night and enjoy it after all the hard work but we couldn't
"Fair play to Dublin. They had their homework done. They looked a much fresher team out there today and they're well marshalled under Dessie Farrell and they have a serious chance of winning All-Ireland now," said Bonner, who said that they had a fair idea how Dublin would set up.
"Dessie was at our Ulster semi-final and final. We knew it was going to be that kind of match and would come down to small margins but Dublin had the legs – we didn't. We were a step or two behind all day. That energy we had wasn't there
"You could see players trying to get there; gaps started to open up. We did get them in at half-time and we did try to rally them. Once we got those first couple of scores you could see the energy start to drain away
"That wasn't a proper Donegal performance out there today. It's been very consistent throughout Ulster."