No Bones About It

Declan Bonner

DECLAN BONNER: GAA Wish list for Santa

Santa is on his way and there are a few things on my GAA wish list for 2016.

My first wish is for our Donegal Senior team to unearth a few new players in the McKenna Cup and the early stages of the league.

We’re back in Division 1 again, and I think maintaining our top flight status will be a priority.

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It would be a blow if we were relegated. Yes, it could be a youthful, experienced side that goes out for Donegal in the spring and that could lead to teething problems, but you don’t want to go into the Championship after being relegated.

That can hit morale and there can be negative energy around the team, which is not easily shifted.

You might say that finishing in the bottom two of the league didn’t do Tyrone any harm last year, but they still lost their opening game of the championship.

They were able to build up momentum through the qualifiers but I would have my doubts over whether Donegal would be able to do that.
Our best bet is to go through the front door and try and reach another provincial decider.

Donegal have been in the last five Ulster finals and we have grown accustomed to spending the third Sunday in July in Clones.

Can we make it back there in 2016? Looking at the draw, I think it is something we can definitely hope for.

The Ulster Championship is a really tough tournament but the pain of last year’s defeat can push Rory Gallagher’s team on, and I don’t think anyone in the province will want to face Donegal.

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Rory Gallagher.

Rory Gallagher.

Winning the Anglo Celt is a real possibility, and anything after that is bonus territory.

As many of you may know, I am the new manager of the Donegal under 21 team and we will be hoping for a successful season.

Rory has taken in a lot of the under 21 players into the senior squad, but in reality most of them won’t feature come the business end of the season.

For those boys that aren’t quite ready to step up yet, the Under 21 Championship will be top of their agenda.

They will be training with players of the calibre of Michael Murphy, Neil Gallagher, and Karl Lacey and that can only bring them on.

Our teams have done well at minor level in recent years, but history tells us that is difficult to replicate that at under 21 grade.

That’s the task for us now, to push on and bring through good players with a winning attitude.

It’s a short campaign, and we only have ten weeks to get ready for our first game on March 16.

It’s a busy period because the Sigerson and Trench Cup competitions will be going on at the same time.

But we knew that when we got involved. It’s an important age-group and hopefully our players con continue to make good strides forward.

On a National level, things have become a little bit boring with Kerry, Dublin, and Mayo easing to the Munster, Leinster, and Connacht tiles respectively each year with minimum fuss.

I think it’s about time that some county stood up and broke the status quo.

Tyrone reached last year’s semi-final, but it is a long time since they beat one of the country’s big guns. They won the Under 21 Championship last year, and a number of those players are progressing through now and maybe Tyrone are ready to take a seat at the top table again.

Out West, Roscommon have got a high profile management team of Kevin McStay and Fergal O’Donnell.

The Rossies have done well at underage level over the past five years, and now they need to step up and put Mayo under pressure in Connacht.

Stephen Rochford has come in as Mayo manager and only winning the Sam Maguire will suffice as a successful year. Mayo will be gearing towards late August, and that might leave them vulnerable at the start of the summer, if Roscommon or Galway – who also have a lot of good players – can take advantage.

Realistically, it is very hard to see Dublin’s monopoly of the Leinster Championship being interrupted, and Kerry look like a safe bet to come out in top in Munster again.

Cork were very slow to appoint a new manager and I don’t think they have the right mentality to beat the Kingdom.

Hopefully some team can make a charge and bring some excitement to the 2016 Championship, but at the moment, it is very hard to look past Dublin, Kerry or Mayo for Sam, with Tyrone as dark horses.

Another wish I have is for a Donegal club to finally win an Ulster Club title. Our record is shocking and it is about time some side stepped up and got us over the line.

Bundoran were very unlucky this year in the Intermediate and Urris could say the same in 2014 when they reached the Ulster final. However, we’ve read enough hard luck stories.

The standard of club football in Donegal is decent and there’s no reason why one of our teams can’t get over the line in 2016.

I do think that our attitude lets us down in these competitions at times. If you look at Crossmaglen, or say the Down clubs in the Intermediate Championship, as soon as they win their county title, they are thinking of provincial glory.

In Donegal, we sometimes take the foot off the pedal for a week or so and then get back down to business.

There’s nothing wrong with celebrating and enjoying a big victory, but you need to get back at it again on the Tuesday night and start planning that jaunt on Ulster.

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