Monday 27 January 2020

Inside Back: Where are they now? and Have Your Say

Where are they now? Donegal footballer Declan Bonner

The texts keep coming, more than two decades later. The steady bleep of the phone alerts Declan Bonner to the latest repeat of Reeling In The Years from 1992. He kicked the last point of Donegal's triumph over Dublin in that year's All-Ireland final. The historic success still holds huge significance for the county, and Bonner's part in that first win for Donegal has never been forgotten.

The Killybegs forward sees parallels between that game and today's semi-final clash of the last two All-Ireland senior football champions. Then, as now, Dublin were the overwhelming favourites to win, the Ulster champions relegated to mere cannon fodder on the Dubs' march to glory. Bonner sees Charlie Redmond's first-half penalty miss as the moment Donegal sensed victory.

"From our point of view it was a dubious penalty to begin with, but we knew that we were capable of beating them. They got a good start to the match but that miss was the changing of the game. We got four or five points in a row after that and we never looked back," Bonner remembers.

His point and the ecstatic reaction in Croke Park and back home in Donegal form the sporting highlight of RTÉ's review of that year, and Bonner was in the eye of the celebratory hurricane that swirled around him and the entire team.

"It was absolute bedlam. We had the traditional reception for both teams on Monday and then we got the train to Sligo and travelled by bus to Donegal town. I think we were meant to arrive around 10 or 11pm but it was nearly 3am when we eventually got there," is how he remembers the epic journey through the county and the raucous reception that awaited them.

Five years later, injuries forced Bonner into early retirement but just four weeks after his playing career ended, he became Donegal senior manager. He was just 32. A late Joe Brolly goal denied him an Ulster title in 1998.

Since his tenure ended in 2000, Bonner, who works as a sales rep for a drinks company, has been involved in club management. Last year, he took over the Donegal minor team, who he hopes to guide to the county's first All-Ireland title at that level, beginning with victory over Dublin today.

"Three years ago I began working with this team at under 15 level and they have done really well. They have great belief and if we bring our A game, we know we can win today," is how he assesses his team's and their senior counterparts' chances of toppling the Dubs this afternoon.

Number of the week

2.5

As in £2.5m, the amount Chelsea paid for each of Fernando Torres’ 20 Premier League goals since they paid Liverpool £50m for his signature. Torres has joined AC Milan on an effective free transfer.

Quote of the week

‘I believe that in my profession, I am the best and I work hard for that. But if I’m not, in my mind I always think I am the best.’

The always modest Cristiano Ronaldo

Have your say

Cork could do with fresh ideas

WITH regard to Cork’s All-Ireland semi-final defeat by Tipperary, one could have not legislated for so many players failing to step up on the day.

There appeared to be a lack of intensity and pace to Cork — the short game was pedestrian. One would question the tactics of allowing Tipperary so much possession because Cork stood off and allowed their opponents to dictate.

I was very disappointed that some contributors to a local radio station in Cork were personal in their condemnation of two players. It was not necessary to name them. They are amateurs and have a day job. One cannot compare them with Premiership footballers.

It is natural for people to look for scapegoats after such a performance, but this team has come on leaps and bounds in the past two years. They were coming from a very low base.

I would like to see more money invested in the game. There are only six or seven coaches in the county of Cork, certainly not enough to meet challenges from other sports.

One has to wonder how coaches for minor and u21 are appointed. Coaches or mentors complete their term with the minor grade and then move on to the u21 grade. Should a coach who has made no headway at minor level be then appointed to the next grade? One has to question the process.

In Cork, there is an opinion that the hurling team will come overnight. There needs to be structures in place. Cork at under-age has fallen behind other counties in the province. Wining at minor and u21 does not guarantee success, but certainly confidence is gained.

Why can’t Cork have a number of colleges join together — e.g. Cork City North and another from the southside —to form Harty Cup teams? This might help to foster the game of hurling in a meaningful way.

Finally, if JBM is to carry on, perhaps he needs to replace some of his backroom team to freshen things up.

Pat Harrington

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