Declan Bonner and Donegal last night declared their intention to take on Croke Park over the venue for their Super 8s clash with Dublin, but last weekend his competitive streak was trained on a far more localised conflict. With his club Na Rossa deprived of their first-choice goalkeeper ahead of a senior league game with Burt, Bonner stepped into the breach at the sprightly age of 52.
In addition to managing Donegal, Bonner remains deeply embedded in his club: he serves as Na Rossa's chairman and, as we have now learned, occasionally moonlights as their replacement goalkeeper.
The club's PRO Felix Melly telling Balls that the club serves a sparsely populated area ravaged by emigration, estimating that the club has seen an exodus of more than twenty young footballers in recent years.
"We were short of numbers for the game and would have had to forfeit the game, so Declan stepped in", says Melly. "Declan's always willing to help in whatever way he can".
Na Rossa lost the game, but creditably: losing on a scoreline of 0-11 to 0-06. It's fair to say Bonner made an impact, given that Na Rossa conceded eight goals in their last meeting with Burt a month ago. Melly attests to Bonner's influence, confirming that he did pull off a couple of important saves and that his "left foot is as sweet as ever".
Bonner took his first steps in management with Na Rossa back in 1989. At the age of just 23, Bonner guided his club to an intermediate championship in the role of player-manager. Melly didn't rule out the possibility that Bonner continues as 'keeper once the club championship kickstarts after Donegal's interest in the All-Ireland wanes.
Remarkably, Bonner wasn't the only current Donegal manager who appeared in that game a week after winning a major title: the county's Nicky Rackard Cup-winning hurling manager Mickey McCann came on as a substitute half-forward for Burt during the second-half.