AS A PLAYER and a manager, Declan Bonner has tasted both sides of Ulster final emotions.
Bonner leads Donegal back to the final this Sunday aiming to retain the Anglo Celt they collected 12 months ago.
It’s Donegal’s eighth Ulster final in nine years with Cavan the latest team to stand in the opposite corner.
“It’s a great place to be,” says Bonner.
“…but only if you win it because there is no lonelier place in the world than sitting in a Clones dressing room as a losing player or manager. There is no better feeling than going in and the Anglo Celt is in the middle of the floor.”
Bonner took the Donegal job for a second time in 2017 after a year that saw heavy defeats to Tyrone and Galway in the Championship.
Many wondered if Donegal’s time as a contender had passed, but not Bonner.
He says: “I believed in what was out there. I saw a lot of young lads who were out there, the Stephen McMenamins, the Eoghan Bans, the Ryan McHughs, Eoin McHughs and Jamie Brennans…all of those lads had success at underage level.
“I knew the type of individuals that were there. Having the experienced players on board was vital. They are really professional in everything they do. That mix was really important. I knew there was a real opportunity.”
Donegal took the title last year with a win over Fermanagh, but Bonner knows the perception from a wider audience – and has set about putting that right.
He says: “Last year, we clocked up decent scores, but we felt we didn’t get the respect we deserved because the saying was we didn’t beat Tyrone or Monaghan.
“It was important for this group to beat one of those teams.
“We beat Tyrone. But it was an Ulster semi-final at the end of the day. Whether that’s Tyrone, Derry, Antrim, Down, whoever, it was a semi-final and there is no silverware handed out so we need to get ready for the final.”
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