Colm Bonnar remains a believer in Carlow's potential
By Cian O’Connell
It has been an interesting stint in charge of Carlow for Colm Bonnar.
The former Tipperary hurler remains one of the most respected coaching figures in the game with Bonnar hopeful about the future of the game in Carlow when action resumes.
While significant challenges and uncertainty currently exists due to the Covid19 crisis, Bonnar is adamant that Carlow can respond following the recent Allianz Hurling League Division One play/off defeat to Westmeath.
“We finished on a very sour note, our defeat to Westmeath, we just didn't perform or meet our own expectations,” Bonnar reflects. “Sometimes the best way to get that out of your system is to get out on the field, to start. From that game on the Thursday the whole thing was just put on hold. We haven't had a chance to get together, to discuss that, to see what we need to work on. Obviously we still have a very good bunch of players.”
Bonnar derives huge satisfaction on what Carlow accomplished in previous campaigns. “What they have done over three or four years going from Division 2A to 1B, staying in Division One,” Bonnar stresses.
“It took a lot to get there, but unfortunately we weren't able to maintain it. So it is a very frustrating time at the moment because you don't know what is happening.
“We are back in the Joe McDonagh after being in the Leinster Senior Championship last year. It is so hard to plan, you don't know what is going to happen, but that competition is going to be huge for Carlow to try to reassert themselves, to show we haven't gone away, that we aren't on a slippery slope going down.
“We are keen to get back training, but we just can't do it. So lads just have to work away themselves, do their own strength and conditioning, to get out themselves.
“It is hard to replicate the intensity and the training that is needed to compete at the level we'd like to compete. It is the same for every county. It is frustrating, but it is very understandable because the health of the nation is the priority.
“Everybody has to do the right thing, people can't be meeting up. That is something we are sticking strictly to. We just hope the players individually can get some work done because we won't have a huge amount of time if we do get back this year.”
Though Carlow has a small hurling playing base Bonnar believes that there is sufficient talent in the county to make a serious bid for Joe McDonagh Cup honours once more.
“It just didn't really happen for us in Division One this year,” Bonnar admits. “We were struggling and it is not good to get beaten the way we were beaten. Coming from Leinster (Championship), even though at particular times we put up serious performances, there still was a big gap to the top teams.
“We have such a small pool of players. Then St Mullins' getting to the Leinster Final took from the preparation period and the foundation base we need to put in to be some sort of a challenge for the bigger teams.
“When you have been with a smaller county with only four senior clubs it is very difficult to be asking the same players to be at the peak of their performance, to get as much as you can from them.
“They went from the Christy Ring to the Joe McDonagh to the Senior Championship in a three year period. That is just huge.”
Hope is still attached to the Carlow hurlers according to Bonnar. “In a way we surprassed anything we thought we would do,” Bonnar remarks. “It takes serious, serious training to be able to compete against the top teams in the Leinster Senior Championship.
“Even in the Division One there is a gap there, it takes a long time to try to get to that level. Looking at it now we are going back down to Division 2A and the Joe McDonagh, but everything is there for us to try to do well. The Joe McDonagh is a brilliant competition, we know what it is like, we have been there.
“We got to Croke Park out of it. That really gave us momentum, just like Laois last year. The new Championship with Leinster going to six teams there is huge incentive for teams in the Joe McDonagh, to put themselves out there to get to Croke Park first of all.
“Also to get that winning feeling back. Obviously the teams who get to the Joe McDonagh Cup Final are in the Liam MacCarthy which is a huge incentive. The winner then goes back up to the Leinster Senior Championship so Carlow has a huge opportunity to put ourselves back up with the big boys in the space of five or six months.
“Nobody knows what is going to happen with the Championship, but that is definitely within our capabilities and within our sights. That will keep us highly motivated to keep the level of hurling we have, to show we aren't on a slippery slope back down.”