Sunday 18 August 2019

Bonner hails 'top class' display as Brennan 'steps up to the plate'

Donegal manager Declan Bonner celebrates with Niall O'Donnell, right, after their Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final victory against Cavan in Clones. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Donegal manager Declan Bonner celebrates with Niall O'Donnell, right, after their Ulster GAA Football Senior Championship Final victory against Cavan in Clones. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Colm Keys

Colm Keys

Donegal manager Declan Bonner hailed a "top class" first-half performance as they bounded into the 'Super 8s' for the second year looking every inch like Dublin's most credible challengers.

While acknowledging some disappointment that they let Cavan back into the game with two late goals, Bonner still felt firm foundations were laid as they led by 0-13 to 0-5 at the break.

"There was scores coming from all over the pitch, some patches of excellent football. We dominated the kick-outs. The likes of Eoghan Bán (Gallagher) coming from deep, the likes of Ryan McHugh, Hugh McFadden - a lot of these guys were getting on the scoreboard. It was very, very good," he said.

It was Donegal's fifth Ulster title of the decade, with the manager acknowledging it was a special time.

"I said it to the lads that there were lads appearing in their eighth final and others appearing in their first. Ódhran McFadden-Ferry, that was his first taste of senior football today and we have real trust in those players.

"I've said it before that it is a small squad - only 29 players - and any one of those players could have come on and done a job. Five times in 10 years is brilliant. We went long spells without one, so you have to make the most of every opportunity when you get here.

"I played in four Ulster finals on the trot, lost two and won two, and I have teams that have won and lost Ulster finals here. I don't know about the other provincial Championships, but there were big scenes down in Galway last weekend. They have to stay part of it."

Bonner also agreed that Jamie Brennan, top scorer again with 1-4, has really advanced his game in the last two seasons.

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"He's stepped up to the plate over the last two years since I've been involved. I've had Jamie since he was U-15, U-16. I know the quality in the guy."

Cavan manager Mickey Graham was adamant the occasion didn't get to his men, but agreed a five-point margin of defeat was generous to them.

"We will not cover up anything. A lot of things we talked about didn't happen for us today, especially in the first-half. We got turned over at times, against a team like Donegal that counter-attack you are going to get punished every single time and that's what happened.

"We got turned over in the tackle, we kicked a few wides, gave away ball, dropped it short and it was all our doing and Donegal made it count at the other end."

Dropping

He credited his players for not dropping their heads after the break.

"They played until the final whistle and you have to give them credit for that. They showed great character and a lot of teams might have tried to close up shop and not concede, but you are always going to leave yourself exposed."

Graham feels they can recover quickly and aim at a place in the last eight.

"I think every game we played in this Championship we have improved and got better and learned a lot about ourselves. The lads have gained confidence and if we get another couple of games this year that will bring us on more.

"But the most important thing of this campaign is that it inspired a lot of footballers to want to play for Cavan and want to wear that jersey, which maybe wasn't there for a number of years."

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