By Michael McMullan
GLENSWILLY are keeping their feet on the ground ahead of the upcoming Donegal Senior Championship insists manager Pauric Bonner.
Now in his fourth season at the helm, Bonner – who has Cookstown man Ciaran Sharkey in his management team – is content with the rebuilding phase that saw an influx of youth eventually replace a swathe of retirees as their “fantastic team” gradually broke up.
The Covid lockdown deleted relegation from the equation in the Donegal leagues, prolonging Glenswilly’s inevitable drop until they lost a play-off last season to Killybegs. Winning 11 games on the bounce has been enough to elevate them back to the top flight for 2024.
“The first year we were there, we shipped a couple of heavy defeats in the championship which we wouldn’t be used to,” Bonner said, praising the players for digging in.
The younger breed have bought into life as a senior footballer. They crave training and are at the front of the queue when their strength and conditioning programme phase needs reviewing.
“We have a very young squad and they are all fighting for places. On any given week, players come in and out,” Bonner said.
Media commitments have reduced Michael Murphy’s input to five of their first 11 games. It’s five more than last year. Every Tuesday and Thursday night, he is driving the standards at training, while finding time to manage the club’s minor team.
Gary ‘Copper’ McFadden’s has his war wounds, but and could have played more games that he has, however, Bonner wants him ready for when it matters. An 20-year-old footballing body needs different tuning than one in its mid-thirties.
Plus, Division Two is the place to blood youth. They are the Glenswilly team of the future. ‘Copper’ and Gerard McGrenra are in with the club u-15s, with everyone working off the same blueprint to keep topping up the senior squad.
“We have completely built that team around the likes of Michael, Copper and Keelan Kelly,” Bonner summed up.
“We are enjoying the journey at this stage. We will not get carried away with ourselves, we want to be back in Division One
“We have racked up some big scores and we have won away against the big teams in Division Two. There is a big difference between playing in Division Two and championship football.”
Last year’s championship exit is tinged with regret. Glenswilly outplayed Naomh Conaill in everywhere but the scoreboard before being outfoxed in the second half.
“We are an ambitious team and we want to move on every year,” Bonner said. “We got to the quarter-final last year and that is the minimum we want to make and we’ll see what happens after that.
“We are conscious that we are playing in Division Two and the jump to senior (championship) football is massive.”