By Michael McMullan
FORMER Donegal star Rory Kavanagh has emerged as the frontrunner to succeed Declan Bonner as the county’s senior football manager, Gaelic Life understands.
Kavanagh, an All-Ireland winner in 2012, retired after Donegal’s narrow loss in the final two years later before being coaxed back by Rory Gallagher in 2016.
After finishing his playing days with his club St Eunan’s, Kavanagh managed them to a first Dr Maguire Cup last year, in his first season, their first senior title since 2014.
St Eunan’s defence of their county title currently has his full focus, a campaign that continues with this weekend’s semi-final showdown with league champions Kilcar.
Declan Bonner called time on his five-year stint as Donegal boss after their exit to Armagh in the Qualifiers.
Donegal won back-to-back Ulster titles under Bonner with Cavan ending their three-in-a-row hopes in 2020. They were back in the Ulster final this season, but went down to Derry after extra-time before bowing out to Armagh before Bonner stepped down in July.
Jim McGuinness, Martin McHugh and 2016 Ulster minor winning manager Sean Paul Barrett were names cropping up with former Monaghan and Fermanagh manager Malachy O’Rourke also touted as a successor. Naomh Conaill manager Martin Regan also ruled out any interest in putting his name forward.
Kavanagh coached underage development squads within the county and Karl Lacey, the county’s Head of Academy Development, is understood to be part of his management ticket for the senior job.
Donegal will begin 2023 in Division One, their ninth time in 11 years since Sam Maguire arrived in the hills in 2012.