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Declan Bonner not surprised to see Derry reach Ulster final as Hugh McFadden provides Donegal with major injury boost

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Donegal’s Hugh McFadden will be available for the Ulster final showdown against Derry

Donegal’s Hugh McFadden will be available for the Ulster final showdown against Derry

©INPHO/Evan Logan

Declan Bonner isn't taking Derry lightly

Declan Bonner isn't taking Derry lightly

©INPHO/Ryan Byrne

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Donegal’s Hugh McFadden will be available for the Ulster final showdown against Derry

Donegal have received a major boost with the news that Hugh McFadden will be fit to play in the Ulster Championship final against Derry on May 29.

The midfielder had to come off early in the second half of his side’s semi-final victory over Cavan.

Manager Declan Bonner confirmed at an Ulster final launch press event that he expected to have a full panel to choose from for the clash of the north west rivals in Clones.

The only player to miss out will be long-term injury doubt Oisin Gallen, who has been absent with a quad injury all Championship.

While Derry have knocked out the two favourites for the Ulster Championship in Tyrone and Monaghan, Bonner insisted it hadn’t come as a surprise to him to see them emerge as final opposition.

“We knew they were definitely going to be competitive. We played them last year so we are under no illusions, they are a decent side and had a good league campaign,” he said.

“Unfortunately they had a first half against Galway in the league when they conceded a number of goals.

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“They really performed the first day out against Tyrone in the Championship and I suppose people were asking if they could back it up the next day. And the answer was a resounding yes.

“They have put two of the favourites out of the competition and we know that it is going to be a huge challenge and we will need to be at the best of our performance levels to clinch that Ulster title.”

The last time they played was last summer in Ballybofey. Derry matched them stride for stride until Patrick McBrearty escaped the clutches of Chrissy McKaigue to decide the game with a late point in the dying seconds.

That game was played behind closed doors, bringing back some odd memories for Bonner over the past two seasons.

“Even the last time we were in an Ulster final, 2020, it was just surreal. A December winter’s night. A cold night. No spectators,” he said.

“This is going to be back to what we are used to, hopefully the weather is going to be good and a packed Clones. There is no better place to perform than an Ulster final in Clones.

“It’s where you want to be, and I am sure no kid in Derry or Donegal thinks differently. It’s the Ulster final in Clones.”

He also believes that in certain respects, there will be a relevance to that game for the final.

“As we found, they are a team that is well organised. They are energetic and have a number of top-class players,” Bonner explained. “Derry football always had that. Their under-age systems always had that, their schools were powerful.

“They are organised and they are difficult. It’s no doubt it is going to be a difficult challenge.

“Tyrone and Monaghan are not easy to get over in Championship football and Derry have done that, so we are well aware of that challenge and task ahead.”

This is Donegal’s eighth final in the last 12 seasons, and Derry’s first since 2011, and Bonner played down the role that experience is going to have.

“Experience is important in any sport. Experience is important, but is it going to win an Ulster title? No,” he said.

“It’s up to the experienced players to deliver a performance on the day. That’s what is required. We have been there, it’s a great place to be, the Ulster final. But it is only a great place to be when you go up those steps and collect the Anglo-Celt.

“We have been on both sides of that, and we are well aware of that.

“And it will go down the final straight. I think the bench, the guys coming off the bench the last 20, 25 minutes, is going to be crucial. It’s up to those guys to make the telling contribution.”


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