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Donegal can overcome injury woe, says Bonner

Declan Bonner
Declan Bonner
John Campbell

By John Campbell

It was hardly surprising that Donegal manager Declan Bonner was reluctant to engage with the media in any detailed discussion on injuries after his team's Super8s draw with Kerry at Croke Park on Sunday.

After all, the 1992 All-Ireland winner had been forced to reshuffle his side at the 11th hour when key defenders Neil McGee, Paddy McGrath and Eoghan Ban Gallagher were ruled out.

As if that was not bad enough, both midfielders Jason McGee and Hugh McFadden were forced to leave the field of play during the game with injuries.

Bonner now finds himself engaged in a race against time as he bids to strengthen his line-up for the must-win tie against Mayo at Elvery's McHale Park, Castlebar on Saturday week (6pm).

While Gallagher is expected to be out for the rest of the season, there is optimism that Neil McGee and McGrath might be back to face James Horan's side.

Jason McGee appeared to suffer a leg strain against Kerry but could be fit for duty shortly, while McFadden may also be available.

But this cannot disguise the fact that Bonner's preparations for his team's most important game of the year to date will be hampered to some extent.

In retaining their Ulster title, Donegal set down a marker that they could prove a force in the All-Ireland series but, although the teams were level on no fewer than 16 occasions on Sunday, the manner in which some of the scores were conceded will be a matter of concern to Bonner and indeed his Kerry counterpart Peter Keane.

Caolan Ward, Eoin McHugh and Eamon Doherty were the players drafted into the Donegal defence at the last minute, while Daire O Baoill, Oisin Gallen, Frank McGlynn, Paul Brennan, Brendan McCole and Leo McLoone were all sent on from the bench.

"I thought the players who went in did really well but our focus is now on the Mayo game," insisted manager Bonner. "I think we will most certainly need all the experience we can muster for this match in particular."

For now, Bonner will remain focused on getting his strongest possible team out on the McHale Park pitch.

Even at this juncture, Donegal have a fair idea of what lies ahead of them. If they win, they will face either Dublin or Tyrone, with Kerry also likely to make it into the last four as they will play pointless Meath on Saturday week in Navan (6pm).

And when Donegal arrive in Castlebar, they will have ex-Mayo manager Stephen Rochford, now No.2 to Bonner, in tow.

Rochford is credited with adding a new dimension to Donegal's play and, ironically, could now play a major part in bringing down a county that he strove so hard to take to All-Ireland glory.

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