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Donegal manager Declan Bonner urges his Minors to hit the ground running

By John Campbell

Even before a ball was kicked in the Ulster Minor Football League this year, Donegal manager Declan Bonner had a premonition that his team might just have the capacity to reach the All-Ireland final.

And as events unfolded, it slowly but surely became clearer that his vision of the future carried uncanny accuracy.

Donegal won the league crown before stepping up a gear to add the provincial championship title and now they will bid for the biggest prize of all when they meet Kerry in the All-Ireland decider at Croke Park on Sunday.

Bonner's unshakeable belief in his team's ability to deliver the goods stems from a work ethic he describes as "incomparable" and their willingness to go flat out until the final whistle.

"Roscommon asked big questions of us in the All-Ireland quarter-final and then we were well tested by Dublin in the semi-final.

"These two matches to my mind formed perfect preparation for this game against Kerry and now we want to hit the ground running at Croke Park," maintains Bonner.

"We learned more about ourselves in those last two games and that knowledge should stand us in good stead on Sunday. I think we have an incomparable work-rate but it will be needed against Kerry because they are a good side with a lot of quality players."

If cohesion, flair and energy have been manifested on a collective basis, then Donegal's ration of individual talent is such that they will go in against the Kingdom fuelled by considerable confidence.

Bonner has shown an ability to adapt to situations and counter what he feels are opposition strengths.

Kerry have already claimed some notable scalps, though, and have shown a marked drive to play games at a high level of pace and intensity. They bring physicality to the table, too, and their cohesive support play has been a feature of their championship run to date, while they have forwards well capable of converting half-chances.

All this forces Bonner, meticulous and thorough in everything he does, to concede that a good start is essential if his team is to stake their claim for honours in a match that he feels is laced with possibilities.

"We know that Kerry are very hungry because these young players will eventually want to follow in the footsteps of the famous players who have gone before them.

"That's why it is so important that we get things right from the outset and then push on. This is not a game in which we can afford to sit back and let the opposition come at us because a final is different to all other games that you might play," asserts Bonner.

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