Declan Bonner disappointed after Dublin defeat
By John Harrington
It’s difficult not to have some sympathy for the Donegal footballers after the first three rounds of the Allianz Football League.
They’ve played some really good football at times, but the bottom line is that they remain pointless.
Single-point defeats to Kerry and Galway were followed on Saturday night by another encouraging performance against Dublin that also ultimately fell short.
“Disappointed, absolutely, we definitely deserved probably something out of the Kerry match, the Galway game, we just had chances, didn't take them, same as the second-half this evening, we had our chances,” said Donegal manager Declan Bonner after the defeat to Dublin.
“We played well in the second-half, I think at one stage we kicked 8 points to 3 and we had a couple of opportunities that we didn't take, missed a few opportunities and dropped a few short.
“Against a team of Dublin's quality you're going to be punished and we were, so disappointed that we didn't get a result.
“We came so close. We battled really hard to come back. The first-half we were slightly maybe playing within ourselves. We just maybe stood back a bit from Dublin.
“Before half-time there might have been four points in it and we hit the crossbar, with Jamie, a great opportunity. He done everything right bar put it in the back of the net.
“Dublin went down the field (and scored) and all of a sudden you're going in at half-time and instead of maybe one or two points it's six points.
“We knew there wasn't much in it in the first-half. The second-half has to be positive but we have no points, that's the bottom line.”
Despite a third defeat in a row, there are some reasons to be cheerful for Donegal supporters.
Young players like Stephen McBrearty and Jamie Brennan are going from strength to strength, and the more offensive kick-passing style of football that Declan Bonner wants his team to play with is starting to bed in.
“It's very difficult, because when you're playing a system for a long period of time it can be difficult to try to change,” said Bonner.
“But we're getting there, the boys are working hard on the training ground and that's the only place we can get it rectified.
“It's just a fine bit of tweaking at this stage. We're not that far away, but a victory would be a huge tonic at this stage.
“Kildare is our next match now and that's a must-win game for us. The margins are small against the top teams and we just have to be more clinical.”
Even if he looked a little bit rusty, the return of Michael Murphy to the fray as a second-half substitute for Donegal bodes well for the rest of their League campaign.
Frank McGlynn is expected to be back for next weekend’s match against Kildare, Neil McGee’s return isn’t too far away either, and Paddy McGrath is pencilled in for the last two League games.
When that quartet of experienced players are added to youthful mix that has performed well so far, then you’d have to give Donegal a chance of winning enough of their remaining games to avoid the drop to Division Two.
“We've four matches left, they're all big matches for us,” said Bonner.
“Prior to the League campaign I knew we were going to be very, very short in terms of experience.
“We have a lot of young lads that have come up and shown they are capable of playing at that level.
“We knew it was going to be tough. Yeah, we want to stay in Division One, but it's not going to be the be all and end all if we don't.
“The championship is always going to be a priority. We're looking towards Ulster and that starts in May.
“We're building bit by bit and we're trying to change the way we're playing. That changing game-plans takes time, but they're getting there.
“That second-half performance will definitely encourage them leaving Croke Park today.”