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Declan Bonner is boosted by major show of strength

By John Campbell

Donegal minor boss Declan Bonner not only saw his side gain a place in tomorrow's All-Ireland decider against Kerry when they beat Dublin in the semi-final, he was also provided with confirmation that he really does have strength in depth at his disposal.

When Niall Friel incurred a black card in the 35th minute and skipper Niall Harley had to be substituted four minutes later, the pendulum appeared to swing in Dublin's favour.

They were hit again when Jamie Brennan, who had scored 3-7 in four matches up until then, was withdrawn and replaced by Gavin McBride in the 48th minute and John Campbell, who earlier in the game had potted 1-2, made way for Conor Doherty in the 53rd minute.

Yet although his side found themselves swimming against the tide, Bonner was never assailed by the slightest hint of panic.

Instead, clever use of substitutes, a subtle restructuring of his side and an abundance of character on the part of his players ultimately saw a memorable victory achieved, albeit by the narrowest of margins (1-12 to 1-11).

And that's why Donegal will enter Croke Park tomorrow fully focussed on what Bonner concedes is "a massive task" but bolstered by what they believe will be huge support.

"I think more than anything the team showed enormous character in beating Dublin," she said.

"At times the match looked to be slipping away from us, but the boys stuck to their task. They kept their shape and hit back when it mattered most. I thought the way they closed out the game spoke volumes for their composure."

Lorcan Connor, John Campbell and Jamie Brennan have scored 5-33 between them in the five championship matches and Bonner feels the Ulster champions can bring that fire-power once again, providing that can impose themselves at midfield.

Kerry: S Ryan; D O'Donoghue, B Ó Beaglaoich, T O'Sullivan; B Sugrue, A Barry, C Coffey; B O'Sullivan, M O'Connor; M Burns, B Rayle, M Flaherty; K Spillane, L Kearney, T Ó Sé.

Donegal (probable): D Rodgers, D Monagle, C Gillespie, C Kelly, S McMenamin, T McCleneghan, C Mulligan; N Harley, C McGonigle; S McBrearty, L Connor, M Carroll, J Brennan, J Campbell, N Friel.

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