Bonner: Lean times ahead for Kingdom

Declan Bonner is beginning to think the fates of Donegal and Kerry football are inversely linked.

When he was fist-pumping after scoring a point against Dublin in the 1992 All-Ireland final, Kerry had been licking their wounds from losing to Clare for the best part of three months.

As Donegal partied the nights away in the Noughties, it was the Kingdom who stood with Tyrone as the team of the decade.

Now, Bonner believes the wheel has turned once more and it’s Kerry who are in descent, their 10-point defeat to Donegal in Ballybofey on Sunday the latest case in point.

“It’s probably the poorest Kerry team that I’ve seen, to be quite honest,” said Bonner. “I know one or two of the players and they are quite happy with the set-up under (Eamonn) Fitzmaurice. There’s no problem there but they haven’t been producing it on the park. It must be frustrating for them because they were lacking in every department (on Sunday). It was over as a contest from an early stage.

“I don’t know what the underage structures are like but there doesn’t seem to be the quality of player coming through as there used to be. It all seems to have dried up.

“I think Kerry are facing a couple of lean seasons ahead, to be quite honest. Any time you try and write their downfall, they come back and bite you but this is a bit more serious.”

Without Colm Cooper, Paul Galvin and Declan O’Sullivan, Kerry have been particularly toothless in the forward line.

But Bonner argues their problems are more deep-rooted. “It’s deeper than that, it’s right around the park. Tomás Ó Sé was sent off in the second half but even at that stage they didn’t look like they were going to get back into it.

“(Kieran) Donaghy caused problems when he was moved inside but there was nothing coming off him in midfield.

“I just think the type of football Kerry play they will always find it difficult to come against the defensive blocks that the likes of Donegal, Tyrone and Dublin put up.”

With six points all but necessary from their last three games to remain in Division One next season, Kerry are becoming reluctantly acquainted with desperation.

Down, who are almost as distressed having only picked up their first two points at the weekend, travel to Tralee on Saturday, followed by the visit of Cork to Killarney and then a long bus ride to Omagh in next month’s final round.

Before that, Darragh Ó Sé’s U21s face Cork in tomorrow evening’s Munster quarter-final in Páirc Uí Rinn.

The county will turn its lonely eyes to a side who, despite being underdogs, beat a much-vaunted Dublin in a challenge game the week before last.

But after Dublin’s surprise defeat to Longford last week, just how high does that victory stack?

Bonner believes the next generation of footballers in the county have to be more au fait with the tactics of other counties.

“The whole game has changed and Kerry are finding it difficult to play that system. It’s going to be hard for them to change because the traditional style was their style.

“It could take a number of years but you need the type of player coming through to do it. It has to be drilled into them about how this is the game-plan that needs playing.

“They haven’t changed much of what they were about. They were the Manchester United of football but it’s coming near the end for a good few of them, even if the likes of Galvin and Gooch are yet to come back.”


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