At the press conference before the 2012 Ulster final, Jim McGuinness wooed the media on an array of topics.
Looking beyond Donegal’s meeting with Down, that night at Jackson’s Hotel in Ballybofey, McGuinness, sipping a cup of tea, was asked about the long-term.
“We want to develop a synergy in Donegal,” he said. “A successful county team can energise the club scene and encourage more young players to get out and play the sport. Then you might be able to get another Michael Murphy or Colm McFadden, a Karl Lacey or a Ryan Bradley. That will see a new generation coming through and if that cycle continues that’s where tradition comes from.”
One man on the cycle was Declan Bonner, best remembered then as the flame-haired corner-forward who popped over the insurance point in the 1992 All-Ireland final when Donegal upset Dublin 0-18 to 0-14.
Bonner, aged 32, was senior manager, coming within whisker of the 1998 Ulster title in the first of his three years, only for Joe Brolly to hit a dramatic winning goal for Derry in the days before the back door. In the hills, 2012 will always be the year Donegal won a second ever All-Ireland – but behind the curtain that synergy was developing.
Since then, Bonner’s Donegal teams have won provincial crowns in the Buncrana Cup (U-16), Jim McGuigan Cup (U-17), minor, U-21, and on Sunday take on Cavan for a third Ulster SFC in succession.
Before 2011, Donegal had only won one All-Ireland and five Ulster SFCs, all on Brian McEniff’s watch. Now, they’ve the same haul in nine seasons.
Players like Jamie Brennan and Eoghan Ban Gallagher have grown up with Bonner, with the likes of Niall O’Donnell, Caolan McGonagle, Stephen McMenamin, Jason McGee, Odhrán McFadden-Ferry and Peadar Mogan playing fleeting cameos.
“Jim came in and he took a group of players very quickly to an Ulster title,” Bonner said this week. “All of a sudden, they won an All-Ireland within two years. At the same time, we were building with a group of young lads who have come through in the last couple of years.
“That goes back to 2012. There are 10 or 12 of those guys now. It has been slowly, steadily building. Since 2011, it has been a pretty good time. This is a great place to be – but it’s only a great place if you win it.”Tags: