Colm Bonnar: ‘I'm really enjoying it’
*By Cian O'Connell *
Throughout the past four decades Colm Bonnar has enjoyed a decorated playing and coaching career, but deep satisfaction can still be gleaned in the management game.
During the winter Bonnar accepted the invitation to take charge of Carlow with the early Allianz Hurling League Division 2A signs and results offering encouragement.
Carlow have posted five points from their first three matches and they travel to Newbridge on Sunday for a critical encounter.
Bonnar, a distinguished servant in a plethora of roles for Tipperary, Cashel King Cormacs, Waterford IT, Waterford, Wexford, and Ballyhale Shamrocks is thrilled to be back operating in the inter-county arena.
“Sean Campion the Carlow Chairman gave me a call,” Bonnar explains. “Obviously Carlow isn't too far away from me here in Waterford and I have to say I do like being involved in an inter-county set-up.
"Without the players we don't have anything."
“You are working with the best of people, we have a good coach and passionate selectors so you are going into a structured set-up, you know when you've games, when you are training for.
“You are guaranteed your numbers at training, it is great. You are constantly learning in this. You are learning from other people, I have to say I am enjoying, it is great to be back in with a county. It is great to get the response we've got from the players.
“Without the players we don't have anything. They have created the right values and standards about what we are trying to achieve. They have a big part to play in it, they have all bought into it, we are delighted with that, and I'm really enjoying it.”
The Carlow panel are responded well to Bonnar’s promptings with the opening weekend League win over Westmeath classed as a vital result by the two time All Ireland winner with Tipp.
“Yeah, our progress has been steady since our first game against Westmeath,” Bonnar says.
“We went into it as a case of trying to build and going to Westmeath was tough, it is a tough place to go, I suppose Westmeath didn't get off to a great start, they were beaten by Kildare then in the next game.
“They seem to be going a bit better recently, but it was a good win for us even though we only scored 1-13. Against Antrim we scored 0-21 and then against London we scored 3-22 so we are getting better.”
Bonnar has been struck by the attitude and application of the Carlow players, who are keen to regain Senior Championship status again in the summer.
"We are building and I think that there is a lot more in us to come."
“The more I see of the players, though, and we have a panel of 32, I have to say I'm very impressed with the attitude and commitment. Everything we have asked from them they have given us. We have been steadily improving, which is the main thing.
“We are building and I think that there is a lot more in us to come. I couldn't have asked for more. Even though the might only have five or six senior teams I think the standard of hurling the boys are able to play to is of a high nature. They are enjoying their campaign and like any other team in Division 2A their ambition is to try to get out of it, to move up.”
How important is it for Carlow to get out of Division 2A to boost their development in the longer term? "Yeah, obviously when you see Westmeath competing in the Round Robin, and Carlow had been there then you have a young Kildare team coming through, they are doing well, and Antrim are very anxious to get back to where they have been in the past,” Bonnar remarks.
“It is very competitive and those teams I've mentioned, they are dying to get a chance to play in 1B. I know the likes of your Galways, Wexfords, and Limericks they are in the top eight or nine counties, but the players want to get tested to see where they are in terms of their own hurling.
“We are being tested and we are being tested severely in the Division at the moment, Antrim gave us a great game, a drawn game in Carlow. The Westmeath game was a very tight game and the one against Kildare is going to be very tight. All of those four teams would have serious ambitions of trying to make it up to the next Division.”