Declan Bonner: Donegal doing ‘huge amount of work’ on mark

Donegal manager Declan Bonner has admitted the reigning Ulster champions are doing “a huge amount of work” on winning marks.

Tír Chonaill often targeted Michael Murphy with long balls during their 12-point win over Armagh on Saturday, while they were frequently looking for runners towards the 45 to claim advanced marks.

Indeed, Caolan McGonigle, Niall O’Donnell and Hugh McFadden all scored off attacking marks during a 10-minute spell in the first half.

Jim McGuinness was critical of the rule in recent weeks, venting his frustrations on Inside The Game.

“If you can get out in front of your man, catch the ball into your chest, we can stop the game and that’s a point-scoring opportunity in championship football,” he said.

“They’re keeping the ball, trying to suck people out so they can make an incision. There’s a lot of bodies outside the 45 that the ball can be recycled to, and they’re just putting the ball in that player’s hand. Somebody is then making a dart from the top of the ‘D’ to win the ball, and that’s a point-scoring opportunity.”

But regardless of the rights and wrongs of the rule’s introduction, there is no doubting that Donegal are using it effectively.

“There’s a huge amount of work gone into it being quite honest,” Bonner told Sky Sports after the win over Armagh, when asked if they were working specifically on the advanced mark.

“It worked for us today, and the lads’ handling was very good. Our kick-passing was very good. It was a good all-round performance, but there’s still room for improvement. And we’ll look for that improvement.”

Overall, he was pleased with his side’s showing, in which they dismantled the Orchard County.

“We went about our business in a really professional manner,” he said.

“I thought the lads worked extremely hard. The first half laid the foundations for us, we kicked 1-12 in that first half. Some of our play was really, really good.

“After the water break, we tagged on some good scores. Peadar’s goal before half-time was a big goal for us and deflated Armagh. The second half, it was 0-10 each. We always kept them at arm’s length.

“But we still have work to do, heading into an Ulster final.”

Bonner’s opposite number Kieran McGeeney lamented his side’s inability to challenge Donegal.

“I just thought we were a wee bit timid in attack today. We had chances to go at them, and we didn’t,” he said.

“It just cost us. We had them on the back foot in the first period and we didn’t make any use of it.

“When you do that against a quality team, when you give them a chance, they’re going to punish you, and they did. They hit 1-7 to 0-1 in that second quarter, and that was basically the game.

“We said at half-time, if we’re going to go out, at least go out on our feet and not on our knees.

“They fought to the end which was good. We’ve a good young team there. But you can’t be timid against the top teams. You have to have a cut at them. You have to have a go at them. Sitting back is not going to win. You have to put over the bar. I’ve always believed that. It’s easier to score than it is to stop people scoring.”

But overall, it was a satisfactory year for the Orchard County, as they secured promotion to Division 1 for next season.

“I was very happy with the year,” he continued.

“We lost 18 players with Covid, for two weeks before the Roscommon game. But our feeling was, you’re better playing than crying about not playing. So we wanted to go out and have a cut. We had 12, 13 people at training, until the fellas came back the Tuesday before it.

“That stuff will stand to you. We learned what the first division is like here today. If you’re meek and you’re timid, you stand back and don’t go at them, you’re going to find it hard to stop good players scoring.

“I truly believe that the top teams don’t focus on that, but focus on getting the scores. We didn’t focus on getting the scores, especially in that second period, and it ultimately cost us.”

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