Ulster SFC: Declan Bonner defends Donegal training schedule

Donegal v Mayo
Donegal were relegated from Division One following a draw with Mayo in their final fixture
Ulster Senior Football Championship preliminary round: Donegal v Cavan
Date: Sunday 13 May Venue: MacCumhaill Park, Ballybofey 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

Donegal manager Declan Bonner has defended his side's training schedule before their Ulster Senior Football Championship opener against Cavan on Sunday.

Some have criticised Donegal's decision to train during April, despite a new GAA directive ring-fencing the month for club activity.

"We have to be ready for 13 May, that's the bottom line," said Bonner.

"Every match in Ulster is a final. We have to get the lads right."

Donegal began championship preparations at the start of April in order to ensure they had six weeks training ahead of their opening game.

Former All-Ireland winner Bonner suggested that a provision should be in place for teams with a championship fixture in early May.

"It's very difficult. It depends where you are in the championship. If you're Dublin, then you don't need to be ready for 13 May," he said.

"Maybe Dublin or Kerry can afford to have April off and to have a total shut down. There should be a provision for teams who are out early."

Dublin's Leinster campaign will begin two weeks after Donegal's opener, while Kerry are not in action until the beginning of June.

It is GAA policy that county training camps must take place within a 10-day window before an inter-county championship game.

The current punishment for breaking this rule is the forfeiting of a home game in next year's league campaign.

Mickey Harte
Red Hands boss Mickey Harte has also questioned the GAA's sanctions

Tyrone and Armagh are among the counties facing a possible sanction.

However Tyrone manager Mickey Harte claimed his squad's trip to County Kildare last weekend "didn't interfere with the club schedule at all".

"Anybody who looks at this in the real world and knows something about what's required in these situations would be able to say it's a bit of a blanket rule that doesn't fit very well.

"We wouldn't go away out of the country at a time when the players need to be available for their clubs. I don't think we're in a position to take any sanctions for that."

Donegal's league disappointment

Donegal host Cavan at Ballybofey in the championship curtain-raiser having endured a poor National Football League campaign which ended in relegation from Division One.

By contrast, Cavan's fine league form earned them promotion from Division Two.

"We are up against a good Cavan team who had a good league campaign and who will be playing Division One football next year," Bonner said.

"We had to have our preparation as good as we can and we have done that. We have worked really, really hard and all we need now is a performance on Sunday."

Despite the disappointing league campaign Bonner believes that his squad will have taken plenty of positives from their experiences so far.

"We used 37 players in total in the league and a lot of young lads got serious game time. That will stand to them."