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Declan Bonner describes managing Donegal as 'a great honour' as he steps away from role after five-year stay

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Declan Bonner (right) has brought the curtain down on his role as Donegal football manager

Declan Bonner (right) has brought the curtain down on his role as Donegal football manager

©INPHO/James Crombie

Declan Bonner (right) has brought the curtain down on his role as Donegal football manager

Donegal football team boss Declan Bonner has called time on his role having been in charge for the past five years.

He becomes the third Ulster inter-county manager to step down of late, following in the footsteps of Antrim’s Enda McGinley-Stephen O’Neill partnership and Monaghan’s Seamus McEnaney.

Andy McEntee, until recently manager of his native Meath, has since been appointed the new Antrim boss, while Monaghan officials are still conducting a trawl for a successor to McEnaney.

Bonner declared that it had been “a great honour” for him to manage the team over the past five years.

“I am stepping down with immediate effect from my role as manager but I want to say that it has been a great honour to manage this team over the past five years just as it was to manage the teams from Under-16 level up in the five years before that,” said Bonner.

“Highlights from my time in the role of senior team manager include competing in four Ulster Finals and winning two of these back to back in 2018 and 2019.

“I am proud to leave the team playing league football in Division One of the Allianz League next year.”

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It was those twin successes in 2018 and 2019 that triggered optimism that the team could again become a major force on the All-Ireland stage, but Dublin’s capture of the Sam Maguire Cup for six years in succession ruled that out.

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Michael Murphy was an inspirational skipper for Declan Bonner

Michael Murphy was an inspirational skipper for Declan Bonner

©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

Michael Murphy was an inspirational skipper for Declan Bonner

Indeed, Donegal have not reached the last-four of the All-Ireland series since 2014, and their surprise loss to Cavan in the 2020 Ulster Championship Final, coupled with defeat to Derry in this year’s provincial decider, certainly triggered unrest and disenchantment within the county.

Even from the start of the current season, Bonner, who was a key player in the Donegal side that won the county’s first All-Ireland title in 1992, was known to be under pressure.

While the Covid-19 threat had previously disrupted his itinerary with the Donegal side – something that all managers experienced to a greater or lesser extent – the fact that his team were unable to gain any real momentum proved disappointing.

When they beat Armagh in the Quarter-Finals of the Ulster Championship, they were expected to make even more progress but, although they overcame Cavan at the Semi-Final stage, Derry proved their masters in the decider and then Armagh eliminated the side from the All-Ireland series with a convincing 3-17 to 0-16 win which sent shockwaves throughout the north-west county.

Since then there had been plenty of speculation about whether Bonner would remain in his role as manager. He had a year left to run on his agreement with the county board but his decision to step aside means that a new incumbent will now be sought.

Having introduced a number of new players to the team in more recent seasons, Bonner had been hopeful that his mix of youth and experience would bring success to the county, but it was not to be despite the intense passion he showed while fulfilling his role, with Michael Murphy proving an inspirational skipper.

The Donegal county board is now expected to move quickly to appoint Bonner’s successor so that the new manager can be afforded the maximum time in which they can select and prepare his squad for the 2023 campaign.

It is expected that many of the players whom Bonner has blooded will be retained, but there is also a rich seam of fresh talent that is likely to be monitored when the new squad is being drawn up.


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