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Bonner backs his troops to hit new heights

 

By Declan Bogue

Declan Bonner might be a hard man to impress about the house.

You could do the hoovering and go over every square inch, but if there's a bundle of fluff anywhere on the carpet you could be damn sure the Donegal manager would find it and delight in pointing it out to you with a stern, 'You missed that bit.'

Despite having watched his side use their extensive jab all day to keep Derry at bay, he set to work instantly on playing down the positive and ramping up the negatives, just like any GAA manager would.

"Any time you win a Championship match in Ulster, or anywhere, it's good, but it was a patchy performance, we know that," said the man from the Rosses after a game played in sapping heat.

"We played well in patches, got some good scores, but at the same time we were poor in patches, so the ante will have to be upped for the semi-final against Down."

A statistic that is sure to be drummed into his players over the next week or so was that Derry missed 1-9 worth of chances, all from within the scoring zone. This Donegal side might be scoring plenty, but they are leaking plenty too.

"Absolutely they had chances," agreed Bonner. "No doubt about that, most teams will get chances. A lot of what we did today wouldn't have been the level we want to be at. We have to improve, there's no doubt about that. But it's a victory, it moves us on to the semi-final, and we have to get ready for that."

In this new condensed version of the Ulster Championship, they get another two weeks to prepare for the next game and he will be pleased at how his panel is growing. Paddy McGrath was back and played over an hour, goal machine Cian Mulligan was introduced and picked up his second goal of the summer, while Odhran MacNiallais got his first action also.

Bonner caught the Down game the night before and stated: "Down did what they have to do. They're a decent side, they got to an Ulster final last year. They're not going to be an easy touch, we'll need to improve on today's performance if we want to get into an Ulster final. Down will present a good challenge, they are dangerous."

In the other corner, Damian McErlain was obviously disappointed in the defeat, but privately must be pleased with the rebuilding of confidence and team structure since the league.

"To be fair I think the boys put a bit of pride back in the thing today. We wanted to play for Derry, the boys wanted to do their best and did do their best. It looks disappointing but we are where we are and we have to build from here," he said. "We started a bit slow, let them get four-up and then we got to the pace of the game.

"I suppose that was to be expected. With the rankings of the teams we hadn't played a team at that level all year. That first 10 minutes after we got into it we started making inroads."

"We were caught on a couple of their kick-outs for big scores. We were trying to get that press on and in the first half we did let them hit a few easy ones. Particularly after half-time we were going man for man and just didn't get organised."

On now to the qualifiers. A run would do them no harm at all for confidence.

Belfast Telegraph

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