Why can't Donegal unite behind new manager Declan Bonner?

THE SPORTING DIARY with Sports Ed Peter Campbell

Peter Campbell


Peter Campbell

Why can't Donegal unite behind new manager Declan Bonner?

Why can’t Donegal unite behind Bonner?

Declan Bonner has got the job and it is not an easy task. He takes over after a big number of established players have moved on, but that's what happens in every county.

We were invited to the County Board meeting on Friday night last - our first time at a Co. Board meeting in quite a while. And after witnessing the workings of the meeting for half an hour on Friday night, I’m glad that we’re not there for full sessions any more.

It must be difficult to be a chairman of such a diverse collection. While it was a one-item agenda - the ratification of the new county manager - there was one item to be dealt with before that, an application for a transfer, which did not meet the criteria. It took some time before someone would propose and second the refusal.

Then before the new manager was proposed and seconded (and there was a pregnant pause on that issue too) there were questions about how the new manager would deal with the club v player issue.

Even when the new manager was revealed and brought in from the corridor, the atmosphere was sombre. I was surprised that the delegates present could not give him a warmer welcome.

There were rumours that Declan wasn’t universally popular, but that could be said of the other candidates also. But once the decision was made surely it is imperative that the county unite behind the new man in charge.

It’s not as if Declan Bonner hasn’t served his time. He was just 32 years of age the last time he took on the mantle. It’s hard to imagine that a 32-year-old would be given the job nowadays. Back then his assistants, Matt Gallagher and Charlie Mulgrew, weren’t much older. But they were different times.

I remember his first game, a challenge match against Mayo (who were a week from the All-Ireland final against Kerry) in Balla, outside Castlebar. It was a time that is not dissimilar to nowadays in respect that many of the 1992 All-Ireland winning team were at the end of their careers.

There can be no doubt that taking on the job of county manager in 2017 is a much different kettle of fish. The game has evolved to a professional level for players and backroom teams. Declan has revealed that he wants to use a good number of mature players which will mean that the younger brigade may be used more sparingly than in the last year.

He has promised changes in the panel and in this respect I contacted Edmund Brennan to see who he feels should be given a chance in the coming year. Names such as Peadar Mogan, Niall O’Donnell and Mark Curran were introduced last year and it is expected that Leo McLoone and Odhrán Mac Niallais will return. But Brennan feels that Ciaran McGinley and Stephen McBrearty (Kilcar), Alan Lyons (N Ultan), Brendan McNelis (Ardara), Dermot Molloy and Kieran Gallagher (N Conaill), Stephen McMenamin (Red Hugh’s), Ciaran McCaughey (Bundoran), Raymond McNamee (Convoy), Kevin McBrearty (Four Masters), Conor O’Donnell and Darragh Mulgrew (St. Eunan’s) and John Fitzgerald (Cloughaneely) deserve a look.

I got a look at Stephen McMenamin on Saturday last in the Junior A semi-final and he is a player that I feel is county material. He has the physique and athleticism to make the grade.

What is evident from Edmund’s list is that many of them are physically strong - a vital starting point in the modern game. We have plenty of very talented players of small stature in Donegal, but sadly it is becoming more and more a big man’s game. Just look at the two teams that contested the All-Ireland final this year.

There is plenty of food for thought for the new manager, who has already cast his eye over three or four top quality club games in the county.

However, putting together a panel of 30 or 34 players is not an easy task. Looking after them and getting them to perform as a unit even harder. Taking on the mantle of county manager at present could be described as a poisoned chalice, but Bonner is always upbeat, which is a good starting point.

He may have to try and curb a tendency to be vocal on the line to referees and others. Maybe we could supply him with a wig with a different colour of hair to cover the red head! However, he has a passion for the game. He must have to be putting himself in for the position. Nowadays everybody has an opinion, and with the advent of social media, those opinions, the good and the not so good, are not kept secret.

Bonner has the capacity to deal with that, but it is very important that Donegal people unite behind him - players, supporters and those in charge of county affairs. It will take a united effort to get us back to where we want to be. We have had six or seven great years. Hopefully there will be more to come over the next three years.

Kilcar impress

The most impressive display of the club championship so far was provided by Kilcar on Saturday night in Ballybofey when they blew St. Michael’s away. The pace and precision was impressive; goal chances were clinically taken and the point scoring from distance was breathtaking. The first half was close to the perfect performance.

Barry Doherty also seems to have added a defensive dimension as St. Michael’s could make no headway and the number of blocks on any attempted efforts showed the hunger of the Kilcar team to finally bridge that gap from 1993.

Getting to the final is not as big a deal as last year. Lessons are being learned. There were some exceptional individual performances which cements the team’s tag as favourites to lift the Dr. Maguire.

However, they know that there will be a much stiffer test in the final whether that be Gaoth Dobhair or Naomh Conaill, who clash this Saturday night.

There should be a much more competitive game in the second semi-final, which is also being shown live on eirSport. The presentation is excellent and Sean Perry certainly enhanced his reputation on Saturday night. MacCumhaill Park also looked well and hopefully the televising of the games will not affect the attendance.