Twenty years after being denied an Ulster championship when Derry’s Joe Brolly snatched an injury time winning goal, yesterday Declan Bonner finally got his hands on the Anglo-Celt Cup.
Bonner’s team were comfortable 2-18 to 0-12 winners over Fermanagh at St Tiernach’s Park to win the province for the first time in four years. Coming from the preliminary round, Donegal averaged 2-19 a match — the highest total ever in the history of the Ulster SFC.
“Twenty years ago, I was in here as a losing manager after a late goal,” Bonner recalled. “To come back and do it with this bunch of players is terrific.”
Donegal, who were appearing in their seventh final in eight years, also rid themselves of the bad memories of losses to Monaghan in 2015 and Tyrone last year.
“These boys have worked so, so hard,” Bonner added.
“This was our goal — to get back here and win that Anglo-Celt. Some of these boys have lost two of the last three finals. The Ulster title isn’t easy to come by and we don’t win them very often. That’s nine we have now, but we have lost a lot more.
“The performance was top class. I’m delighted for everyone involved. The commitment is absolutely huge there.”
Despite their relegation from Division 1 this year, Bonner always insisted that his players should be judged on the Championship and yesterday’s win meant that he joined an exclusive club, with only Brian McEniff and Jim McGuinness having won Ulster titles for Donegal before.
“I came in when Rory stepped down last year, we’d a lot of meetings with the players, we wanted to know exactly where they were at and why things didn’t exactly go right over the last 12 months,” Bonner added.
“The boys knuckled down and you could see that hunger and desire was still there within the senior players and also the younger lads who came in.”
Donegal can now look forward to the Super 8s, where they open their campaign against Dublin at Croke Park in three weeks’ time.
“We’ve got to look at getting out of that group,” Bonner said. “That work starts tomorrow.”
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