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Bonner is confident Donegal can make a major impact

By Declan Bogue

Given Donegal's history with training camps, as one of the counties that most frequently embark upon them, it was little surprise that manager Declan Bonner refused to be drawn on the recent one held in the Queen's University Dub Complex.

Reports circulated that the county were seeking stewards for the weekend to turn people away from the team preparations and forbid any prying eyes as they polish up their team play for tomorrow's Ulster preliminary round clash with Cavan.

"I'm not going to comment on that," was Bonner's answer when questioned about the camp.

"We have a job to do to prepare the team for Sunday, which is 13 days into May. We know the talk that's ahead of us. We are up against a very good Cavan team who had a good League campaign and who will be playing Division One football next year," he says.

"We had to have our preparation as good as we can and we have done that. We have worked really, really hard and all we need now is a performance on Sunday."

A recent report went online on a Donegal media website with details of a recent challenge match on a Tuesday night against Mayo. The alarming figure that accompanied it was that 22 of the senior panel had been unable to play for their clubs the previous weekend.

While there were many queuing up to criticise Bonner, he insists it did not affect him.

"One thing about where we're at as a group, we don't bother about that. There are plenty of people out there only too willing to have a go and a stab here, there and everywhere - even within our own county - but we aren't worried. We're only concerned about our own end of it and that's that," he says.

"We had a job to do to prepare the team for May 13 and that's what we've done. The players were available for the first three or four games. Some of them trained on a Saturday and picked up niggles and ultimately didn't play on a Sunday at certain times. That was injury related. Any club manager who needed an answer they came on to me."

This is Bonner's second spell in charge of the county senior team having gone straight from playing to managing in 1997 as a 32-year-old.

Steeped in the game, he won an All-Ireland in 1992, but the bug bit him so hard that last year he found himself lining out with his club Na Rossa in goals for senior football.

In recent years, he brought a development squad all the way through the ranks from Under-14 to the Ulster-21 title, and he succeeded Rory Gallagher as boss last winter.

Over the last few years, Donegal have fallen out of the favourites' group for Ulster, but he starts in the preliminary round full of hopes against Cavan.

"It's very difficult," he acknowledges.

"It depends where you are in the Championship. If you're Dublin, then you don't need to be ready for May 13."

Still, he has seen enough to believe they can be competitive in the long-term.

"We've done a lot of work and we have really stepped up in the last six weeks. We used 37 players in total in the League and a lot of young lads got serious game time. That will stand by them. We also have a number of more experienced players back, which is good," he adds.

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