Declan Bonner relishing Championship challenge
By Cian O'Connell
"It’s different in every aspect – the pre-match, getting changed on the pitch side, water-breaks, no spectators, it’s a different environment we’re in," Donegal manager Declan Bonner says about the radically altered 2020 Ulster SFC.
Having watched club action unfold, Bonner is adjusting to the new methods. Nonetheless, it will still be strange to be operating in a Donegal versus Tyrone battle without spectators.
"In a Championship match against Tyrone there’s hardly moving space around the town," Bonner admits. "That’s not going to be the case on Sunday. We’re adapting to that."
In the uncertain stint between March and July when doubts surrounded a return to competitive sport, Bonner remained optimistic.
"We kept in touch over Zoom meetings and Teams meetings," Bonner states. "It was difficult really when you weren’t sure what was coming up.
"I was fairly positive that there was going to be Championship. The lads have been brilliant. Then they focused on their club football before they came back into us.
"It’s been different. It’s pretty dismal out there, with the weather, but it doesn’t take away from our Championship feel."
A sense of excitement surrounds the upcoming battle.
"It is different," Bonner continues. "You’ve the added pressure of someone picking up Covid. We got the warning early on in September and we were shut down for the best part of two weeks. We had a lot of protocols put into place under the guidance of Kevin Moran, who is also on the Croke Park advisory committee.
"It’s not going to be watertight as these guys are all amateur and they have to go back to their work.
"We’ve got it at the back of our mind that it’s Donegal v Tyrone in the first round of the Ulster championship. It’s different circumstances, but the intensity levels on the pitch won’t be any different that it would be at the height of the summer in front of a full house at MacCumhaill Park.
"It’s basically winner takes all and that’s what we’ve been gearing to."