Declan Bonner convinced championship will happen and with some spectators

By John HaugheyBBC Sport NI
Donegal's Eoghan Ban Gallagher battles with Tyrone's Mattie Donnelly in last year's Ulster SFC contest
Declan Bonner believes Donegal's Ulster SFC game with Tyrone will take place in October

Donegal football boss Declan Bonner is convinced the inter-county championships will take place this year and that reduced numbers of spectators will be able to watch the games.

The GAA is expected to unveil its roadmap for the return to action over the next few days.

Bonner wonders whether specific dates will be mentioned in the document but remains optimistic.

"I think there will be an Ulster Championship," Bonner told BBC Sport.

"I think it will be open to spectators - I'm convinced about that - in a reduced capacity rather than a behind-closed-doors scenario.

"Beyond the Ulster Championship, I presume the GAA will want to complete the season it if at all possible within the calendar year.

"Every calendar year is pretty full from January onwards and 2021 is going to be no different but if it goes into 2021, so be it."

Bonner expects two-metre rule to be reduced

Bonner works for a wine company whose sales are largely to hotels and restaurants so has been keeping an keen eye on the debate on whether the current social distancing requirements of two metres will be reduced to the World Health Organization's guideline of one metre.

The Donegal boss expects that to happen in the coming weeks in a step which could help hasten gaelic games' return.

"Then it will be a case of deciding which [GAA] venues can monitor that. I'm sure the powers that be will have all that ready.

"We are looking at probably an October start [for inter-county football]. That's what has been talked about and that's probably what we will get."

There is speculation the GAA's Covid-19 Advisory Group may recommend underage and club fixtures resuming potentially in July before inter-county action starts again in the autumn.

"I don't see any reason why the underage and youngsters can't go back in some capacity," added Bonner in his interview with BBC Sport NI.

"One big worry coming out of all of this is going to be mental health. People need to get out and have places to go."

GAA president John Horan
GAA president John Horan said last month that he didn't think the sport would be played as long as social distancing measures remained in force

Mood music has changed

Bonner agrees the mood music appears to have changed significantly over the last four weeks since GAA president John Horan's seemingly downbeat assessment of whether the sport would resume this year.

"It was all doom and gloom after John Horan appeared on the Sunday Game. He had to be cautious given the huge amount of people involved in the GAA.

"But with the committee that has been set up and the three or four doctors involved including our own Kevin Moran and Dr Pat O'Neill, there's a lot of expertise in terms of the medical side of things.

"I think there's a fair degree of confidence that things are going to open up a bit quicker than maybe was anticipated.

"In terms of the numbers and what's happening with Covid-19 at the moment, we are having the reduced numbers and cases.

"And you look at rugby and you look at soccer. Everyone else is making plans to go back into action. I see no reason why we can't go back."

August return to training on cards

With mid to late July being suggested as a likely period when club training will be allowed to resume, Bonner believes county squads will be linking up again at some stage in August.

"I think probably by mid July, you are going to see clubs back training and maybe inter-county teams back (training) by August.

"I think there is light at the end of the tunnel. I'm optimistic. Of course, I'm always optimistic. The glass will always be half full here."

Bonner has been taking part in regular Zoom calls with the Donegal squad, who have been given training programmes to do on their own by the county's strength and conditioning personnel.

"You don't really know until you get everyone back in together but what I've seen and what I've heard over the last 11 weeks, the lads have really knuckled down and we'd be fairly happy with where they are at."

Paddy McGrath, Jason McGee, Oisin Gallen and Stephen McMenamin all missed the opening four league matches because of injury but look likely to be in a position to resume training when the go-ahead is given.

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