A narrow defeat to Armagh yesterday brought an end to their McKenna Cup campaign, but Declan Bonner wasn’t too downbeat afterwards.
It was a game Donegal could have won – and certainly one in which they could have forced extra time.
Donegal are still a shadow of the team regarded as their strongest XV while Armagh were close to full tilt for the 0-14 to 1-10 win at Healy Park.
“The McKenna Cup has served its purpose for us,” Bonner said.
“It was a real opportunity for us to take a look at players and see the strength in depth of our squad, especially with Stephen (McMenamin) and the Gaoth Dobhair boys still being out with their clubs.”
Donegal go to Clare in two weeks’ time to begin their Division 2 campaign.
By then, Paddy McGrath, Leo McLoone and Eoghan Ban Gallagher should be available, with the returns of Michael Murphy and Frank McGlynn pencilled in for later in the League.
Conor Morrison picked up what Bonner described as a ‘knock’ yesterday, forcing him out of action at half-time, but the St Eunan’s man ailment was not mentioned as one that could place him in doubt for the trip to Ennis.
Yesterday, a Jason McGee goal in the 23rd minute helped keep Donegal in touch, having lost their way somewhat after a bright start.
“It was a strong Armagh team,” Bonner pointed out.
“We felt that we didn’t leave the dressing room in the first half. We weren’t at it. We were much better in the second half.
“We had too many turnovers. We knew Armagh would be strong and physical.
“It was a good match because sometimes you learn more from a game like that than some of the ones we have played. It was a good learning experience for these young lads and a real good test.
“It was a good work out. Today was a real test and a real challenge. It was ideal for us. It would have been nice to win the match, but so be it.”
It was Donegal’s toughest game of 2019 so far following easy wins against Queen’s, Down and Cavan in the group phase of the competition.
Bonner said: “We won the first three games at a canter and you learn more about players from situations like they found themselves in today.
“They responded really well in the second half and it was a good learning curve in our preparation for the National League.
“A lot of players didn’t play as well as they could have and that’s something we’ll look at, but I couldn’t fault them for effort and commitment.”
With Murphy and Patrick McBrearty absent, Jamie Brennan once again had to lead the line and the Bundoran man hit four points. Bonner described Brennan as ‘outstanding in everything he did today’ and it was a game that offered the Donegal manager some encouragement.
He said: “We got a number of young lads in again and we got 70 minutes for the likes of Ryan McHugh, Jason McGee and Caolan McGonagle.”
Bonner refused to be drawn on the inter-county futures of Darach O’Connor, Mark McHugh and Stephen McBrearty, none of whom featured in the McKenna Cup.Tags: