Declan Bonner has been tasked with the job of guiding the fortunes of Donegal U-21 footballers for 2016 as they bid for an eighth provincial crown.
The 1992 All-Ireland winner masterminded the county’s first All-Ireland Minor final appearance in 2014 and has also in the past guided Donegal to a senior provincial final.
In charge of the U-21s for the first time and with a good few survivors from last year’s team final that were pipped by Tyrone in the final, expectations are high in the county that the team of 2016 can go where no other Donegal U-21 team has gone since 2010.
“We have a good few survivors from last year alright but unfortunately a good few of them are out injured at the moment,” explained Bonner. .
“Lorcan Connor, Jigger O’Connor and Tony McCleneghan, who started last year, are all out injured. Jack O’Brien, who also started the final, is also struggling with an injury and is rated no better than 50/50 for Wednesday night.
“Rory Carr, who was part of the squad last year too, is also out. The game is possibly coming a couple of weeks too early for Rory.”
But despite the injuries and the difficulties of up to half of his squad at college outside the county and the difficulty in getting pitches to train on due to the weather, Bonner is looking forward to the Derry challenge.
“It has been difficult to prepare properly but we played in the North West Cup in January and we had a number of good games in it.
“We also had a number of good challenge games and the good thing from those games was that while we were not at full strength for any of them the lads that have came in stepped up to the mark. And given the injury situation we will be looking to these lads for a big performance on Wednesday night against Derry.”