Declan Bonner awaits club approval for Donegal hot-seat

Donegal look to have got their man as Declan Bonner will go before the clubs of the county tonight to be ratified for the position of senior team manager.
Declan Bonner awaits club approval for Donegal hot-seat

Bonner was part of the 1992 All-Ireland-winning panel who were the GAA’s Jubilee team at Croke Park on Sunday before Dublin’s narrow win over Mayo, and has enjoyed success as manager of the Donegal minors and under-21s in recent seasons.

Donegal won the Ulster U21 championship this year and with Bonner in charge, the county’s minors were provincial champions in 2014 and All-Ireland finalists, losing out to Kerry who have since gone on to win four in a row.

Donegal have been on the lookout for a new manager since Rory Gallagher stepped aside last month following their 4-17 to 0-14 fourth round qualifier loss against Galway in Sligo in July. Gallagher has since taken up the managerial post at his native Fermanagh.

Gallagher succeeded Jim McGuinness in the Donegal hot-seat on Halloween night 2014 and was pipped to Ulster success by Monaghan in 2015, and then Tyrone last year, before losing a spate of McGuinness’s 2012 All-Ireland winners to retirement.

From the team that started the All-Ireland final win over Mayo five years ago, only Paddy McGrath, Neil McGee, Frank McGlynn, Karl Lacey, Mark McHugh, Michael Murphy, and Patrick McBrearty played championship football this year. Lacey, 2012 GAA/GPA Player of the Year, has since stepped away from inter-county football, although Donegal have potential with underage successes in the last few years.

A clubman of Na Rossa, Bonner, from Lettermacaward, has managed Donegal seniors before, from 1997 to 2000, when the closest the county came to silverware was in the 1998 Ulster final, where a last-minute Joe Brolly goal saw Derry lift the Anglo-Celt Cup.

Donegal will start 2018 in Division 1 of the Allianz League but looking to improve on their heavy 1-21 Ulster semi-final loss to Tyrone in the championship, which put an end to a run of six successive provincial finals under the stewardship of McGuinness and Gallagher.

Bonner, Cathal Corey, who managed Naomh Conaill of Glenties to the 2010 Ulster club final and Sean Paul Barrett — the man who took Donegal’s minors to the 2016 Ulster MFC and All-Ireland semi-final — were interviewed twice by the five-person selection committee. Former Monaghan and Meath manager Seamus McEnaney and Gary McDaid, who managed Glenswilly to two Donegal SFC wins and an appearance in the 2013 Ulster club championship final, withdrew from the race.

A special meeting of the Donegal County Committee has been arranged for the Villa Rose Hotel in Ballybofey tonight. The selection committee — comprising county chairman Sean Dunnion, secretary Aideen Gillen, treasurer Cieran Kelly as well as Paddy Carr and Damian Diver — must put a name before the clubs for ratification.

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