Declan Bonner had the troops huddled tightly around him when he made his point – and made sure it was absorbed.
By Chris McNulty at Croke Park
The bulk of the crowd had already spilled their way onto the Drumcondra cobbles when the Donegal man assembled his men. The seagulls soared around them on the Davin end of Croke Park as an animated Bonner began to speak.
Donegal manager Declan Bonner during Saturday’s Super 8 game in Croke Park. Photo Evan Logan
A 2-15 to 0-16 loss to Dublin in their opening game of the All-Ireland quarter-final group phase doesn’t quite spell disaster but Bonner had demanded better of his team.
“I felt there was more in us – maybe just that belief to get over the line against Dublin,” he explained his seemingly fiery demeanour in that post-match gathering.
Maybe teams don’t perform against Dublin how they should and maybe show too much respect.
“We played against a real quality side, but we didn’t get to the levels. We have a week to get ready for a huge battle against Roscommon. That was the main message.”
When Niall Scully scurried in for the game’s opening goal in the 27th minute, it felt like what is ordinarily the signal for Dublin’s opponents to wilt.
But Donegal heeded neither that warning nor the sirens that sounded when Scully broke in for his and Dublin’s second just after half-time.
Four points, though, was as close as Donegal could get in the second half.
There was a sense from the Donegal manager that he believed his side was capable of more.
He said: “We came up to get a result. We knew it was going to be difficult and we knew in a match like that getting hand on ball and taking the opportunities was vital. We had a couple of chances we didn’t take.
“At this level, you have to be clinical and we weren’t. Niall Scully’s goals were the difference.
We didn’t get to the levels that we did in Ulster. But we were against different quality. We were up against the best side in the country for the last three years. They are quality and as good a Gaelic football team as has ever graced a pitch.
“In saying that, we spoke about small margins. When the opportunities arise, you have to take them. Dublin took the goals at crucial stages and that was the difference.”
Seconds before Scully finished past Shaun Patton for the first of his majors, Jamie Brennan took responsibility in front of Hill 16, but the Bundoran man fired wide.
Bonner said: “Those are the margins, but we take the positives. It was always going to be difficult coming in here with a lot of young lads against a side like Dublin. Our attention has to turn now to Roscommon – that’s must win.”Tags: