Not for the first time Rory Gallagher is preparing to take on Donegal in an Ulster final.

Gallagher managed the Tír Chonaill side between 2014 and 2017 before taking the reins at Fermanagh and guiding them to the provincial final in 2018. The Ernesiders were beaten that day by 12 points as Eoghán Bán Gallagher and Ryan McHugh hit goals in Clones.

Declan Bonner was managing the Under-21 footballers in Donegal when Gallagher had the seniors, but he sees little advantage for his predecessor when it comes to Sunday's final.

"He knows the players but we've watched Derry on numerous occasions," Bonner tells RTÉ Sport ahead of the meeting at St Tiernach's Park.

"Rory knows some of our lads, he's coached them. Ultimately that's not going to make a difference. It's the team that's going to perform to the best of their ability on the day.

"Derry are a formidable opposition and we will need to improve on our semi-final showing, and that's what we'll be looking for.

"They'll be setting up defensively. Without the ball they're always going to get bodies back, so it's always going to be difficult. You've got to work your way around that."

Bonner with Donegal captain Michael Murphy

For many, Derry are the surprise of the championship summer so far.

While their progress had been clear, as they secured two Allianz League promotions in three years, an Ulster route that was likely to include two Division 1 sides - including reigning All-Ireland champions Tyrone - looked too tricky a route for them to reach a first provincial decider in 11 years.

But it was no surprise to Bonner, who is in his second stint in charge of Donegal.

"We played them last year in the Ulster Championship, and it was a very late score from Patrick McBrearty that got us over the line," he says.

"Watching them throughout the national league they were very impressive. Once they beat Tyrone the question was being asked if they could do it against Monaghan.

"They answered those and put back-to-back big performances together. We know it's going to be a difficult test but it's a challenge that we're really looking forward to."

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