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Donegal gear up for ‘four-pointer’ with Armagh

DONEGAL manager Declan Bonner says that tonight’s clash with Armagh is a ‘four-pointer’.

Both counties are currently mid-table, but could still make a push for promotion if they can hit form before the end of the league campaign.

However, the side that loses this week will be all but out of the running, and their focus will then switch to trying to accumulate enough points to avoid relegation.

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Donegal have not been in great form in the league this year, but Bonner hopes his men can get back to winning ways on Saturday night.

“It’s a big match, there’s no doubt about it,” Bonner told the Donegal News this week.

“Both counties need to win the match, so it really is a four-pointer.

“Armagh had a very good result last week against Tipperary, and we know from playing them in the McKenna Cup that they are a really strong side.

“They have really good forwards like Stefan Campbell, Rian O’Neill, Jamie Clarke and Rory Grugan, and big Niall Grimley in the middle of the park.

“They are all top class players and it’s going to be a big test for us.”

Bonner and the management team went over the footage from last Sunday’s defeat during the week as they tried to identify what went wrong against Fermanagh.

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The Na Rossa clubman felt his team performed reasonably well in the first half, although he did lament a couple of misses that could have put the team further ahead.

However, they just never got going in the second half against Fermanagh’s defensive wall, and could only add another two points to their tally after the break.

“It’s difficult to pinpoint where we went wrong.

“We felt we had prepared good for the Fermanagh game and I thought we played quite well in the first half.

“We worked the ball quite well, but we weren’t clinical enough and missed a few chances.

“We scored eight points, but we really should have had ten, and that would have been a good return with the way they set up.

“The breeze picked up in the second half, and you weren’t going to score unless you brought the ball into about 30 metres, but that wasn’t always easy. Maybe we should have just recycled the ball and kept it better.

“We were under the cosh in the second half, but we were still two points up when Stephen (McMenamin) got the black card and that put us down to 13 men, and it was always going to be very challenging from then.”

Bonner was disappointed with the second half showing, and they couldn’t find the answers when Fermanagh started to get on top.

However, the bainisteoir hopes that his men will have taken some lessons from that outing, that might benefit them in the long-term.

“It’s a young squad, and we had no great experience out there, and sometimes you just need someone to slow a game down and help to weather the storm.

“But the only way you learn is by being out there and experiencing those situations, and hopefully then down the line, you’ll be better for it, if you find yourself in a similar spot again.

“The lads were disappointed after the match, but we’ve had a positive week at training, and everyone is ready to go again on Saturday night.”

Division 2 has proven to be very competitive, and with three games to go, it’s still all to play for.

Meath, Fermanagh, Kildare, Armagh, and Donegal are all in the mix for promotion, and while that might be beyond Clare, Tipperary, and Cork, they still need points on the table as well.

Of the 16 games played so far in the second tier, only one (Clare’s triumph) over Cork) has seen a winning margin of over six points.

There isn’t much between the teams, and while Donegal aren’t up against the top counties in Dublin, Kerry, or Tyrone, they still are facing tough encounters every week.

“You have to be at it in every game,” said Bonner.

“There might not be the same quality as there is in Division 1, but you still have teams who have really targeted the league.

“We’re coming up against experienced sides, some of whom are doing everything they can to survive, and other teams are doing everything they can to get promotion.

“Some of these teams realistically are going to struggle in the provincial championships, but the league gives them a real opportunity to make progress.”

Armagh drew their first two games with Kildare and Clare, before losing to Meath.

However, they recorded an impressive victory over Tipperary last week and will be hoping to build on that in Ballybofey.

Bonner is wary of Kieran McGeeney’s team especially as they have already got the better of Donegal once this season.

“We played Armagh in the McKenna Cup, and they beat us in a good game in Omagh.

“They are pretty much at full-strength and they are going well in the league, and have only lost one game.

“Kieran McGeeney has done a lot of work with them, and it’s a big game for them too.

“Listen, we’re not that far away. While we have been disappointed with the recent results, there still have been a lot of positives.

“We have been doing well for long periods, but we need to be doing it more consistently and we can’t afford to switch off.

“We’re confident that if we can improve and get our performance levels up, then we can get the two points.”

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