Glorious times for Donegal
By Cian O'Connell
These are glorious times up north for Donegal, who retained the Anglo Celt Cup with a display marrying substance and style at St Tiernach's Park.
Unsurprisingly manager Declan Bonner was content with Donegal's convincing win over Cavan.
For the fifth time since 2011 Michael Murphy climbed the steps in the St Tiernach's Park stand following an Ulster decider victory for Donegal. "We went long, long years without being in an Ulster final," Bonner reflected.
"We have been fortunate to have been in eight of the last nine. I played in four Ulster finals on the trot lost two and won two and I have teams that have won and lost Ulster finals here.
"The atmosphere around Clones is really electrifying. I don't know about the other provincial championships, but there were big scenes down in Galway last weekend. They have to stay part of it."
Donegal had several outstanding contributors to the victory, but Jamie Brennan continues to emerge as a footballer of real pace and quality. "Jamie Brennan has been doing that all year," Bonner remarked. "He’s stepped up to the plate over the last two years since I’ve been involved.
"I’ve had Jamie since he was under-15, under-16. I know the quality within the guy. Delighted for Jamie, delighted for the whole group. You see Michael going up the steps to lift the Anglo Celt the second year running."
Since returning to the Ulster summit in 2011 Murphy continues to produce when it matters for Donegal. "You’d need to see the way Michael conducts himself both on and off the field," Bonner adds.
"He’s a real leader. He’s an inspiration for everyone involved. He demands the highest of standards – that’s important for the whole group. We have a lot of young lads there. They look up to Michael, Paddy McGrath, Frank (McGlynn), Leo (McLoone), Neil McGee – they are all role models for these young men coming through."
Bonner is excited about the future for Donegal's cocktail of emerging and experienced players. "I said it to the lads that there was lads appearing in their eight final and others appearing in their first," Bonner commented. "Odhran McFadden Ferry that was his first taste of senior football and we have real trust in those players.
"I've said it before that it is a small squad – only 29 players – and any one of those players could have come on and done a job. Five times in 10 years is brilliant. We went long spells without one so you have to make the most of every opportunity when you get here.”
“A lot of good work has been done and a lot of these guys have come through the underage ranks where we need to keep doing the work. That's the conveyor belt we need to keep working on.”