Ulster SFC: Bonner says Derry's drop to Division Four 'not a true reflection'

Chrissy McKaigue battles with Donegal's Michael Murphy in the 2014 Ulster SFC tie at Celtic Park
Bonner believes the return of Chrissy McKaigue and the other Slaughtneil players will significantly boost Derry
Ulster Senior Football Championship quarter-final: Derry v Donegal
Date: Sunday 27 May Venue: Celtic Park, Derry Throw-in: 16:00 BST
Coverage: Live commentary on BBC Radio Ulster MW and the BBC Sport website. Deferred coverage of entire game on BBC Two NI 19:00

Declan Bonner believes Derry will give his Donegal side a much more "difficult match" on Sunday than summoned up by Cavan in the Ulster SFC opener.

Bonner says Derry's shock relegation to Division Four of the Football League in the Spring is not a true reflection of the Oak Leafers' capabilities.

"I wouldn't be looking too much into what happened in the National League," Bonner told BBC Sport Northern Ireland.

"The Slaughtneil boys and Sean Leo McGoldrick are all back.

"You could have anything up to seven or eight players (back). The likes of Mark Lynch and James Kielt didn't play much league football.

"It's going to be a strong Derry side and we're expecting a difficult match on Sunday."

Derry will bring physicality - Bonner

Caoimhin O'Reilly's goal put Cavan two points up midway through the first half in the preliminary-round tie but an unanswered run of 1-6 put Donegal in control by half-time before they put the match to bed in the third quarter.

Slaughtneil brothers Chrissy and Karl McKaigue and their club-mate Brendan Rogers are all expected to start for Derry at Celtic Park after missing most of the League because of the Emmets' involvement in the All-Ireland Club series in both football and hurling.

"Derry will ring a fair degree of physicality. They have some very, very good footballers," added Bonner.

"They will be hurting from the National League. There's no doubt about that even though a lot of them won't have played in the league."

Odhran MacNiallais has returned to the squad this year after opting out for the 2017 campaign
Odhran MacNiallais will be available for Donegal after missing the win over Cavan

McGrath and MacNiallais available for Donegal

In terms of his team, Bonner expects experienced defender Paddy McGrath and half-forward Odhran MacNiallais to be available after they missed the facile win over the Breffnimen because of injury.

Goalkeeper Mark Anthony McGinley is also fit again so could challenge Shaun Patton for the number one jersey.

Martin O'Reilly and Martin McElhinney remain out of contention because of knocks although the form of relative newcomers Ciaran Thompson, Michael Langan, Jamie Brennan and Cian Mulligan meant the duo's absence was not keenly felt against Cavan.

Brennan and Mulligan are among five starters from the 2014 All-Ireland minor final defeat by Kerry who got game time against the Breffnimen.

Stephen McMenamin, Eoghan Ban Gallagher and Stephen McBrearty also featured in the minor decided four years ago while, in addition, a number of other current panellists were part of that 2014 Under-18 squad managed by Bonner.

"I've been working with these guys since Under-16 so you are talking about five or six years.

"These guys are really working hard at their game. They are improving every time and when you are out training and playing every night with the likes of the McHughs and the McBreartys, Michael (Murphy), Neil McGee, that is going to move you on."

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