Donegal senior football manager Declan Bonner.
Donegal senior football manager Declan Bonner.

Declan Bonner: 'The GAA is so important for communities'

By Cian O'Connell

It has been a year like no other and few are better placed to assess the value of sport than Donegal manager Declan Bonner.

An inter-county boss and a Club Chairman with Na Rossa, Bonner is acutely aware of the value of sport.

"Sometimes we take the GAA for granted," Bonner says. "When it isn’t there it leaves a huge void. You can see the huge amount of work GAA clubs did during lockdown, deliveries and looking after the elderly in the neighbourhood.

"That was done the length and breadth of the country, and it was brilliant to see. The GAA is so important for communities right throughout Ireland."

It is why the coming weeks and months matter deeply with inter-county action set to take centre stage once more.

"From our point of view, we’re lucky that we’re at the top end of it in terms of elite sport, representing our county going into an inter-county championship," Bonner adds.

"I think that’s also important that the Championship is played out. For those people at home, even though they can’t get to matches, they are looking forward to the next match, chatting about it with their friends, picking up the phone, without that, over the next three months it would be a very long winter."

Declan Bonner and Mickey Harte are preparing for further interesting Donegal versus Tyrone battles.
Declan Bonner and Mickey Harte are preparing for further interesting Donegal versus Tyrone battles.

The Covid 19 pandemic has brought significant challenges in a plethora of different ways, but mental health needs to be a focus according to Bonner.

"I see it on a daily basis, I’m involved as chairman of my own club here and I can see the difficulties of young lads being cocooned and not being fit to get out there, not just GAA but any sport, as long as they are out there involved in sport and meeting people," Bonner replies.

"I think it is so important and I think we cannot lose that again, just cannot go to where we were in the months of March, April and May because it is going to have a real detrimental effect."

Donegal face Tyrone in the Allianz Football League, a fortnight before colliding once again in the Ulster Championship.

"It is probably not ideal, but it is what it is," Bonner admits. "If you wind the clock back seven months we were getting ready for the week of that Tyrone game when lockdown started.

"It is not ideal, but at the same time we have to get out there.

"There are League points at stake and we have to get ready and that is what we have been gearing up for. I know the Championship is a couple of weeks after that, but Sunday is important for us."