Leo McLoone is poised to make his 100th Donegal appearance on Sunday – and Declan Bonner has hailed the Glenties man’s influence.
Last year, Bonner coaxed McLoone back from inter-county exile.
After the 2016 campaign, a frustrated McLoone stepped away and didn’t play for Donegal at all in 2017.
Bonner, though, convinced McLoone to return and this weekend will join the 100 Club.
“Leo has been excellent since I took him back last season,” Bonner said.
“He has been a real leader within the group. He urges on the younger lads at every training. That’s important. I’m delighted he’s up there now and joining that club.”
McLoone was given his Donegal debut by Brian McIver as a sub against Mayo in 2008. His full debut arrived in 2009, when John Joe Doherty started him in a qualifier win over Carlow in Ballybofey.
McLoone was sprung from the bench at 16 when his club, Naomh Conaill from Glenties, won its first Donegal SFC in 2005, and was part of a golden generation in Donegal that reached an U21 All-Ireland final in 2010.
Under McGuinness, McLoone won an All-Ireland in 2012 and also scooped three Ulster SFC crowns.
Bonner said: “He has physicality and can also play ball. He’s been around the county scene for 10 or 12 years and we look forward to him wearing the Donegal jersey for another number of seasons.”
McLoone is now one of the experienced faces in the Donegal dressing room.
And his influence is obvious.
“He’s a real role model,” his Naomh Conaill and, now, Donegal team-mate Ciaran Thompson said.
“He’s been a massive help to me and the other young lads in the club, too. It’s brilliant to see that he makes the tonne.
“Leo is the best lad. I learned a lot from him. He’d say he taught me everything – but I don’t know about that!”
Leo McLoone – By Fr Seán
|Debut:||17 Feb 2008||NFL v Mayo||Castlebar-sub|
|Full Debut:||4 July 2009||SFC v Carlow||Ballybofey|
|Dr. McKenna Cup||NFL||SFC||Total||Scores|
|13 (0-6)||45 (1-15)||38 (5-18)||96||6-39|